Real-time SERS monitoring anticancer drug release along with SERS/MR imaging for pH-sensitive chemo-phototherapy

Xueqin Huang, Bingbing Sheng, Hemi Tian, Qiuxia Chen, Yingqi Yang, Brian Bui, Jiang Pi, Huaihong Cai, Shanze Chen, Jianglin Zhang, Wei Chen, Haibo Zhou*, Pinghua Sun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


In situ and real-time monitoring of responsive drug release is critical for the assessment of pharmacodynamics in chemotherapy. In this study, a novel pH-responsive nanosystem is proposed for real-time monitoring of drug release and chemo-phototherapy by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). The Fe3O4@Au@Ag nanoparticles (NPs) deposited graphene oxide (GO) nanocomposites with a high SERS activity and stability are synthesized and labeled with a Raman reporter 4-mercaptophenylboronic acid (4-MPBA) to form SERS probes (GO-Fe3O4@Au@Ag-MPBA). Furthermore, doxorubicin (DOX) is attached to SERS probes through a pH-responsive linker boronic ester (GO-Fe3O4@Au@Ag-MPBA-DOX), accompanying the 4-MPBA signal change in SERS. After the entry into tumor, the breakage of boronic ester in the acidic environment gives rise to the release of DOX and the recovery of 4-MPBA SERS signal. Thus, the DOX dynamic release can be monitored by the real-time changes of 4-MPBA SERS spectra. Additionally, the strong T2 magnetic resonance (MR) signal and NIR photothermal transduction efficiency of the nanocomposites make it available for MR imaging and photothermal therapy (PTT). Altogether, this GO-Fe3O4@Au@Ag-MPBA-DOX can simultaneously fulfill the synergistic combination of cancer cell targeting, pH-sensitive drug release, SERS-traceable detection and MR imaging, endowing it great potential for SERS/MR imaging-guided efficient chemo-phototherapy on cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1303-1317
Number of pages15
JournalActa Pharmaceutica Sinica B
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Anti-cancer nanotechnology
  • Cancer cell targeting
  • Chemo-phototherapy
  • Drug delivery systems
  • MR imaging
  • Real-time monitoring
  • Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy
  • Two-dimensional matrix
  • pH-sensitive nanoparticles


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