Current molecular-based assays for routine diagnosis of cancer may lack sensitivity or be suitable only for advanced stages of the disease. As a result, novel tools that evaluate the molecular profile of tumours at the genetic, epigenetic, transcriptomic and protein level are now being employed. However, their complexity and cost have hampered their routine use in clinical diagnosis so far. The goal of the EU-funded SMARTCANCERSENS project was to coordinate collaboration of European and international partners enabling introduction of novel methodologies for detection of specific biomarkers. The idea was to develop sensitive devices based on nanostructured electronic sensors that are suitable for medical laboratories. The devices would be able to detect various biomarkers including small molecules, metal ions, enzymes and cancer-related proteins. In the initial part of the project, scientists focused on the immobilisation of bio and nanomaterials on various conducting surfaces. This involved attachment, deposition and cross-linking of a range of innovative materials onto transducers with subsequent optimisation analytical parameters (sensitivity, selectivity). The chemical or enzymatic transformation at the sensor is proportional to the target molecule concentration in the biological sample. The team tested and optimised the sensitivity, specificity, dynamic range of response, reliability and operational stability of the devices. To enhance the sensitivity in electronic sensor output, nanosize recognition membranes were developed. Using the therapeutic drug tamoxifen as a model, researchers evaluated the possibility of therapeutic drug monitoring using mobile phone interfaces for chemosensing. They also assessed the viability of in situ detection of cancer cells based on selective binding at an aptasensor followed by label-free detection. The SMARTCANCERSENS study generated devices that could be utilised for a number of biomedical applications including drug therapeutic monitoring. They have the potential to complement existing time- and labour-consuming clinical tests, considerably expediting sample analysis. Most importantly, they should facilitate accurate diagnosis.
Cancer diagnosis, biomarkers, nanosensors, biological samples, SMARTCANCERSENS