As nanoscale extracellular vesicles, exosomes are secreted by various cell types, and they are widely distributed in multiple biological fluids. Studies have shown that tumor-derived exosomes can carry a variety of primary tumor-specific molecules, which may represent a novel tool for the early detection of cancer. However, the clinical translation of exosomes remains a challenge due to the requirement of large quantities of samples when enriching the cancer-related exosomes in biological fluids, the insufficiency of traditional techniques for exosome subpopulations, and the complex exosome isolation of the current commercially available exosome phenotype profiling approaches. The evolving surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) technology, with properties of unique optoelectronics, easy functionalization, and the particular interaction between light and nanoscale metallic materials, can achieve sensitive detection of exosomes without large quantities of samples and multiplexed phenotype profiling, providing a new mode of real-time and noninvasive analysis for cancer patients.
Researchers from the Shandong University College of Medicine discuss exosome detection based on SERS, especially SERS immunoassay. The basic structure and function of exosomes were firstly introduced. Recent studies using the SERS technique for cancer detection are critically reviewed, which mainly included various SERS substrates, biological modification of SERS substrates, SERS-based exosome detection, and the combination of SERS and other technologies for cancer diagnosis. The researchers systematically discuss the essential aspects, limitations, and considerations of applying SERS technology in the detection and analysis of cancer-derived exosomes, which could provide a valuable reference for the early diagnosis of cancer through SERS technology.