Detection of low-quantity anticancer drugs by surface-enhanced Raman scattering

Lucio Litti, Vincenzo Amendola, Giuseppe Toffoli, Moreno Meneghetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ultrasensitive detection of low-quantity drugs is important for personalized therapeutic approaches in several diseases and, in particular, for cancer treatment. In this field, surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) can be very useful for its ability to precisely identify analytes from their unique vibrational spectra, with very high sensitivity. Here, we report a study about SERS detection of sunitinib, paclitaxel and irinotecan, i.e. three commonly used antineoplastic drugs, and of SN-38, i.e. the metabolite of irinotecan, dissolved in methanol solutions. By using commercial Klarite substrates, we found that sunitinib, irinotecan and SN-38 have detection limits of 20–70 ng, which is below the threshold for applications in cancer therapy. Conversely, the SERS signal was not appreciable with paclitaxel, and this is explained by the absence of optical resonances in the visible range. Overall, our results show that ultrasensitive SERS detection of sunitinib, irinotecan and SN-38 is feasible, encouraging further development of this technology also for other drugs with similar molecular structure especially for those analytes with absorption bands in the visible range.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2123-2131
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Anticancer drugs
  • CPT-11
  • Doxorubicin
  • Irinotecan
  • Paclitaxel
  • SERS
  • SN-38
  • Sunitinib

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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