Graphene biosensor could provide early lung cancer diagnosis, research shows

February 4, 2019, University of Exeter
This visualisation shows layers of graphene used for membranes. Credit: University of Manchester

The wonder-material graphene could hold the key to unlocking the next generation of advanced, early stage lung cancer diagnosis.

A team of scientists from the University of Exeter has developed a that could create a highly sensitive biosensor with the capability to detect molecules of the most common biomarkers.

The new biosensor design could revolutionise existing (e-nose) devices, that identify specific components of a specific vapour mixture—for example a person's breath—and analyses its chemical make-up to identify the cause.

The research team believe the newly developed device displays the potential to identify specific lung cancer markers at the earliest possible stage, in a convenient and reusable way—making it both cost-effective and highly beneficial for health service providers worldwide.

The research is published in the Royal Society of Chemistry's peer-reviewed journal Nanoscale.

Ben Hogan, a postgraduate researcher from the University of Exeter and co-author of the paper explained: "The new biosensors which we have developed show that graphene has significant potential for use as an electrode in e-nose devices. For the first time, we have shown that with suitable patterning graphene can be used as a specific, selective and sensitive detector for biomarkers.

"We believe that with further development of our devices, a cheap, reusable and accurate breath test for early-stage detection of lung cancer can become a reality.

The quest to discover viable new techniques to accurately detect early-stage lung cancer is one of the greatest global health care challenges.

Although it is one of the most common and aggressive cancers, killing around 1.4 million people worldwide each year, the lack of clinical symptoms in its early stages means many patients are not diagnosed until the latter stage, which makes it difficult to cure.

Due to the unrestrainable nature of the abnormal cancer cells, while they begin in one or both lungs, they are prone to spread to other parts of the body rapidly.

There are currently no cheap, simple, or widely available screening methods for early diagnosis of lung cancer. However, for the new research, the team from Exeter looked at whether graphene could form the basis for a new, enhanced biosensor device.

Using multi-layered graphene, the team suggest that current e-nose devices—which combine electronic sensors with mechanisms for , such as a neural network—could revolutionise breath diagnostic techniques.

Using patterned multi-layered graphene electrodes, the team were able to show greater sensing capabilities for three of the most common lung-cancer biomarkers—ethanol, isopropanol and acetone—across a range of different concentrations.

The team believe this could be the first step towards creating new, improved and cheaper e-nose devices that could give the earliest possible lung-cancer diagnosis.

Multi-layer graphene as a selective detector for future lung cancer biosensing platforms is published in the journal Nanoscale.

Explore further: Graphene sensor tracks down cancer biomarkers

More information: E. Kovalska et al, Multi-layer graphene as a selective detector for future lung cancer biosensing platforms, Nanoscale (2019). DOI: 10.1039/C8NR08405J

Related Stories

Cancer on the breath? The nose knows

May 16, 2011

A breath test for "sniffing out" cancer in a person's breath is a step closer to reality, according to a study recently published in the British Journal of Cancer. The study results show that the device developed by Prof. ...

Autoantibodies may help detect lung cancer earlier

February 17, 2016

Preliminary research has identified autoantibodies, immune proteins found in the blood specific for one's own proteins, that can potentially detect lung cancer early by distinguishing between smokers with or without lung ...

Recommended for you

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.