The Purpose of Building a Biosensor

Modern medicine has an increasing demand for real-time detection of chronic disease biomarkers such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. In the United States alone, about 1,665,540 cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2014 [1]. Early detection improves survival rates and helps reduce treatment costs. When Ovarian cancer is detected in stage 1, the patient has a 90% chance of surviving five years after they are diagnosed. If the cancer is detected in stage 4, the patient only has a 17% chance of surviving five years after they are diagnosed [2]. Cervical cancer is 93% and 15% respectively [3]. The economic impact for the next 10 years due to diseases combines to an estimated $4.2 trillion in 2023. With better prevention, detection, and treatment of chronic diseases, the estimated avoided cost in 2023 would be $1.1 trillion [4]. Current detection methods accrue high costs because of equipment and lab procedures necessary for readings. Few medical facilities in remote or underdeveloped areas are capable of running required equipment for these lifesaving tests. This limits the service to developed areas. Affordable alternatives lack sensitivity and are limited in range and real-time detection. The desire for an effective point-of-care system is ever growing. As disease diagnostics become readily available, the possibility of early disease detection will increase and eventually improve chances of remission and prevention.

The Photonic Biosensors team aims to design and test a point-of-care biosensor that meets the requirements set by previous research on a photonic biosensor at LeTourneau University: label-free, low cost, highly sensitive, highly selective, and easy to integrate with a sample handling system.


[1] "Cancer Facts and Figures 2014." American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, 2014. Web. 31 Aug. 2014. <http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@research/documents/webcontent/acspc-042151.pdf>.

[2] http://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovariancancer/detailedguide/ovarian-cancer-survival-rates

[3] http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervicalcancer/detailedguide/cervical-cancer-survival

[4] An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease Charting a New Course to Save Lives and Increase Productivity and Economic Growth. Tech. Milken Institute, 2007.