Date of Award

6-2014

Degree Name

MS in Engineering - Materials Engineering

Department

Materials Engineering

Advisor

Dr. Richard Savage

Abstract

The American Cancer Society predicts that 1,665,540 people will be diagnosed with cancer, and 585,720 people will die from cancer in 2014. One of the most common types of cancer in the United States is skin cancer. Melanoma alone is predicted to account for 10,000 of the cancer related deaths in 2014. As a highly mobile and aggressive form of cancer, melanoma is difficult to fight once it has metastasized through the body. Early detection in such varieties of cancer is critical in improving survival rates in afflicted patients. Present methods of detection rely on visual examination of suspicious regions of tissue via various forms of biopsies. Accurate assessment of cancerous cells via this method are subjective, and often unreliable in the early stages of cancer formation when only few cancer cells are forming. With fewer cancer cells, it is less likely that a cancer cell will appear in a biopsied tissue. This leads to a lower detection rate, even when cancer is present. This lack of detection when cancer is in fact present is referred to as a false negative. False negatives can have a highly detrimental effect on treating the cancer as soon as possible. More accurate methods of detecting cancer in early stages, in a nonsubjective form would alleviate these problems. A proposed alternative to visual examination of biopsied legions is to utilize fluorescent nanocrystalline biomarker constructs to directly attach to the abnormal markers found on cancerous tissues.

Quantum dots (QDs) are hydrophobic nanoscale crystals composed of semiconducting materials which fluoresce when exposed to specific wavelengths of radiation, most commonly in the form of an ultraviolet light source. The QD constructs generated were composed of cadmium-selenium (CdSe) cores encapsulated with zinc-sulfide (ZnS) shells. These QDs were then encapsulated with phospholipids in an effort to create a hydrophilic particle which could interact with polar fluids as found within the human body. The goal of this thesis is to develop a method for the solubilization, encapsulation, and initial functionalization of CdSe/ZnS QDs. The first stage of this thesis focused on the generation of CdSe/ZnS QDs and the fluorescence differences between unshelled and shelled QDs. The second stage focused on utilizing the shelled QDs to generate hydrophilic constructs by utilizing phospholipids to bind with the QDs. Analysis via spectroscopy was performed in an effort to characterize the difference in QDs both prior to and after the encapsulation process. The method generated provides insight on fluorescence trends and the encapsulation of QDs in polar substances. Future research focusing on the repeatability of the process, introducing the QD constructs to a biological material, and eventual interaction with cancer cells are the next steps in generating a new technique to target and reveal skin cancer cells in the earliest possible stages without using a biopsy.