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Nanoparticles in the diagnosis of lung cancer

Lung cancer is the most common cause of death from cancer in the EU. Finding innovative means of prompt diagnosis is a big priority on the medical agenda.
Nanoparticles in the diagnosis of lung cancer
Raman spectroscopy is especially useful for probing biochemical changes in situ at tissue level. The vibrational profile can provide invaluable molecular details for medical diagnosis and disease prognosis. However, health and safety considerations regarding the high laser power required, limit the clinical application of Raman spectroscopy.

Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) makes is possible to probe single molecules adsorbed onto silver or gold nanoparticles. In the case of gold nanoparticles, SERS sensitivity is insufficient to detect trace biomolecules, necessitating use of novel nanomaterials.

To improve the bio-detection limit of SERS, scientists on the EU-funded RAMAN (Gold nanoprisms as Raman signal amplifiers for bioimaging of lung cancer) project set out to synthesise a range of biologically compatible gold nanoprisms. In this context, they generated nanoparticles of different shape and dimensions, suitable for performing SERS on small molecules and body fluids. They analysed nanospheres, nanotriangles and nanostars by scanning electron microscopy and obtained SERS spectra for their aggregated forms.

Researchers focused especially on PEGylated nanoparticles given their successful use in multimodal in vivo imaging of cancer cells. They tested the capacity of these nanoparticles to enhance Raman imaging in lung adenocarcinoma cells, and discovered that it critically depended on molecular size.

PEGylated nanoparticles interacted better with small molecules and provided a bigger enhancement of SERS compared to big molecules. Subsequent toxicity tests suggested that cells took up hexagonal gold nanoparticles and underwent apoptosis through a caspase-dependent mechanism.

Collectively, the work by the RAMAN project significantly optimised the SERS technique for imaging disease in vitro and ultimately in vivo. In the clinical setting, this translates into a sensitive method to detect disease much earlier than currently used imaging modalities.

Related information


Nanoparticles, lung cancer, Raman spectroscopy, surface-enhanced Raman scattering, gold, PEG, toxicity
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