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We describe a matched subspace detection algorithm to assist in the detection of small tumors in dynamic positron emission tomography (PET) images. The algorithm is designed to differentiate tumors from background using the time activity curves (TACs) that characterize the uptake of PET tracers. TACs are modeled using linear subspaces with additive Gaussian noise. Using TACs from a primary tumor region of interest (ROI) and one or more background ROIs, each identified by a human observer, two linear subspaces are identified. Applying a matched subspace detector to these identified subspaces on a voxel-by-voxel basis throughout the dynamic image produces a test statistic at each voxel which on thresholding indicates potential locations of secondary or metastatic tumors. The detector is derived for three cases: using a single TAC with white noise of unknown variance, using a single TAC with known noise covariance, and detection using multiple TACs within a small ROI with known noise covariance. The noise covariance is estimated for the reconstructed image from the observed sinogram data. To evaluate the proposed method, a simulation-based receiver operating characteristic (ROC) study for dynamic PET tumor detection is designed. The detector uses a dynamic sequence of frame-by-frame 2-D reconstructions as input. We compare the performance of the subspace detectors with that of a Hotelling observer applied to a single frame image and of the Patlak method applied to the dynamic data. We also show examples of the application of each detection approach to clinical PET data from a breast cancer patient with metastatic disease.