Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Microfluidics; Cancer; Protein Biomarkers; Electrochemistry; Enzyme mimetics; Chemiluminescence

Major Advisor

Dr James Rusling

Associate Advisor

Dr Douglas Adamson

Associate Advisor

Dr Alfredo Angeles-Boza

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Cancer is the second leading cause of death in noncommunicable diseases coming right after cardiovascular diseases. Early diagnosis is a key for improving survival expectancy and treatment outcomes as cancer in early stage is more responsive to treatment. Currently, center of diseases control and prevention (CDC) recommend regular screening for cervical, breast and colorectal cancers. Although other screening procedures are available for prostate, pancreatic, thyroid and ovarian cancer, they did not prove to be effective in reducing mortality rates of these cancers. Adaption of prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening test for prostate cancer has not been related to improved survival rates instead it resulted in what has been known as “prostate cancer epidemic” due to overdiagnosis and overtreatment of prostate cancer.

The dilemma of current cancer diagnostic techniques results from the trade-off between specificity and sensitivity of the cancer screening. Specific cancer screening strategies that depend on either imaging or histopathological examination are not sensitive enough and miss latent or asymptomatic cancers. While sensitive techniques that depend on biomarker screening in biofluids like PSA test are not specific enough for accurate decision. In addition, most of these techniques are time consuming, expensive and require centralized laboratories with highly trained technicians. These criteria limit the availability of cancer screening technique to developed countries with well-established healthcare systems and limit their application in areas with limited resources.

The goal of this thesis is to develop and test techniques with promising specificity and sensitivity for screening and staging of different types of cancers. Several approaches have been studied to develop point-of-care (POC) sensors for prostate, head and neck cancers that are of low cost, utilizes low sample volumes, automated or semiautomated and can be utilized in remote areas with limited resources. 3D printing was used to prototype and mass produce microfluidic chips and adaptors with better fluid handling characteristics and much lower cost than traditional microfluidic systems. Panels of selected biomarker proteins were multiplexed on the same microfluidic chip to improve assay septicity while maintaining ultralow sensitivities.

Available for download on Thursday, September 02, 2021