Researchers from National Taiwan University are using ZnO nanorods bonded to antibodies as cancer cell probes. Their experiments show that ZnO nanorods can be connected to antibodies that target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a receptor that frequently overexpresses in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC).

Tumour detection technology

Using ZnO/EGFR antibody probes, the cancer cells can be recognized by the naked eye or under an optical microscope with the help of purple light emission. On the other hand, for cells with less EGFR expression (in this case, Hs68) no purple light is observed as the probes are washed off.

As shown by photoluminescent spectra, the peak intensity ratio between the purple light (from ZnO at the wavelength 377 nm) and the green band (from the auto-fluorescence of cells) is much higher with HNSCC, compared with Hs68. The ZnO/EGFR antibody probes have the potential to be applied in surgery for HNSCC to identify cancer cells in real-time. Using the modified ZnO nanorods, cancer cells can be easily excised thanks to the purple light emission from the probes.

Further information can be found in the journal Nanotechnology.