FIP Special Seminar: Student Speaker Award "Applications of SERS-based Plasmonic Nanoprobes: From Gastrointestinal Cancer Diagnostics to Sensing and Imaging of Biotargets within Plant Systems"
Development of accessible strategies for efficient detection of nucleic acid biomarkers is a major unmet need for applications ranging from cancer screening to agricultural biotechnology and biofuel development. Esophageal cancer (EC) remains a particularly deadly and devastating disease with a five-year survival of 17% in the US. The current screening and surveillance strategy for EC only focuses on performing endoscopy in patients with clinical risk factors associated with esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), yet this strategy has failed to reverse the increasing incidence of EC. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have great promise as a new important class of biomarkers for early detection of various cancers; however, these small molecules have not been adopted into early diagnostics for clinical practice because of challenges adapting complex laboratory techniques into accessible clinical tests. Several miRNAs have been identified to be associated with EAC and Barrett's esophagus (BE), the premalignant metaplasia associated with EAC, distinguishing malignant and pre-malignant samples from squamous mucosa. In a blinded study, the surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS)-based plasmonics-active nanoprobes described herein, referred to as inverse molecular sentinels (iMS), demonstrated diagnostic accuracy for in vitro identification of endoscopic biopsy samples as tumor, Barrett's esophagus or normal tissue via miRNA detection. The iMS nanoprobe technology can be designed to detect a wide range