Chinese researchers in Guangdong, China at Guangdong Medical College have managed to demonstrate how SERS spectroscopy of Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) with blood samples can potentially reveal early cases of cancer
One-to-one and mass cancer screening is a critical approach for preventing cancer deaths, because typically cases caught early-on are more likely treatable. However, whilst there are existing methods to screen for different types of cancer, there is a greater need for safer, cheaper and highly effective techniques to save more lives.
Interestingly a team of Chinese researchers led by Shaoxin Li at Guangdong Medical College, China, have managed to demonstrate the potential of a new, non-invasive method to screen for prostate cancer. Unfortunately a common type of cancer found amongst men (worldwide). The description of their laboratory set-up is based on testing an existing spectroscopy technique called Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) with a new, sophisticated analysis technique called Support Vector Machine (SVM).
As reported in an Applied Physics Letters paper entitled Non-invasive prostate cancer screening based on serum surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy and support vector machine - the researchers combined SERS and SVM and applied them to blood samples from 68 healthy and 93 clinically confirmed to have prostate cancer volunteers. In addition, they found their technique could identify cases of cancer with an accuracy of 98.1%. 
As stated by Li - "If the technique proves safe and effective in clinical trails, it may become a new method available to patients and their doctors, helping to improve the early detection and diagnosis of this type of cancer."
Plus, Li stated - "The results demonstrate that label-free serum SERS analysis combined with SVM diagnostic algorithm has great potential for non-invasive prostate cancer screening," - and - "compared to traditional screening methods, this method has the advantages of being non-invasive, highly sensitive and very simple for prostate cancer screening."
A typical cause of Cancer
World Health Organisation (WHO) report unfortunately that prostate cancer is one of the commonest cancers in men (worldwide) and directly linked to the cause of cancer-related death. For example, every year, there are about 899,000 new cases and 260,000 mortalities, which consist of 6% of all cancer deaths (worldwide). Approximately 1 in 6 men will develop prostate cancer over their lifetimes.
Whilst a simple blood test for elevated levels of a protein marker known as Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) has been employed for a number of years to screen early signs of prostate cancer, unfortunately, the test is not prefect, because elevated PSA levels can be caused by a number of factors unrelated to cancer. This can contribute to over-diagnosis, unnecessary tissue biopsies and other unrelated treatments, which can be expensive and carry side effects. Due to this, the USA Preventative Service Task Force recommends against PSA-based screening for prostate cancer.
As stated by Li - many scientists have commented about applying SERS for cancer detection, because the surface-sensitive type of spectroscopy has been around for years and is sensitive enough to identify key molecules in extremely low abundance levels, such as pesticide residues on to a contaminated surface. Such a capability would make SERS prefect for spotting subtle signals of DNA, proteins and/or fatty molecules that would signature an early sign of cancer.
Continuing on, Li states - "the challenge, was that these changes were, if anything, too subtle. The signal difference between the serum samples taken from the 68 healthy volunteers and the 93 people with prostate cancer were too tiny to detect." Therefore, to accurately distinguish between these samples, the group employed a powerful spectral data processing algorithm, SVM, which showed the difference.
Though the study is at a Proof-of-Principle stage, it positively demonstrates that when serum SERS spectroscopy is combined with a SVM diagnostic algorithm has the potential to be a new method for non-invasive prostate cancer screening. The next step, is to refine the methodology and understand whether the method can distinguish cancer staging. Original article available here
The Chinese research demonstrates the potential of nanoparticles and non-invasive SERS to identify prostate cancer. As stated previously, DCN Corp strongly believes it can compete, by increasing the efficiency of SERS repeatability and/or reproducibility magnitude. Going forward, if you and/or your colleagues are interested in making DCN Corp's alternative process reality - please ensure to contact the company as soon as practicably possible.
 Li, S., Zhang, Y., Xu, J., Li, L., Zeng, Q., Lin, L., Guo, Z., Liu, Z., Xiong, H. and Liu, S., Non-invasive prostate cancer screening based on serum surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy and support vector machine. Applied Physical Letters 105, 091104 (2014)