Surface-enhanced resonance Raman scattering nanostars for high-precision cancer imaging
Spectrum Analysis, Raman
The inability to visualize the true extent of cancers represents a significant challenge in many areas of oncology. The margins of most cancer types are not well demarcated because the cancer diffusely infiltrates the surrounding tissues. Furthermore, cancers may be multifocal and characterized by the presence of microscopic satellite lesions. Such microscopic foci represent a major reason for persistence of cancer, local recurrences, and metastatic spread, and are usually impossible to visualize with currently available imaging technologies. An imaging method to reveal the true extent of tumors is desired clinically and surgically. We show the precise visualization of tumor margins, microscopic tumor invasion, and multifocal locoregional tumor spread using a new generation of surface-enhanced resonance Raman scattering (SERRS) nanoparticles, which are termed SERRS nanostars. The SERRS nanostars feature a star-shaped gold core, a Raman reporter resonant in the near-infrared spectrum, and a primer-free silication method. In genetically engineered mouse models of pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and sarcoma, and in one human sarcoma xenograft model, SERRS nanostars enabled accurate detection of macroscopic malignant lesions, as well as microscopic disease, without the need for a targeting moiety. Moreover, the sensitivity (1.5 fM limit of detection) of SERRS nanostars allowed imaging of premalignant lesions of pancreatic and prostatic neoplasias. High sensitivity and broad applicability, in conjunction with their inert gold-silica composition, render SERRS nanostars a promising imaging agent for more precise cancer imaging and resection.