SERMI4Cancer – Surface-enhanced Raman microRNA for cancer diagnosis and management

The SERMI4Cancer project aims to develop a prototype for a rapid point-of-care test for the measurement of circulating microRNAs in patients with liver cancer and predisposing chronic pathologies.


The SERMI4Cancer project aims to develop a point-of-care (POC) lateral flow test integrated with the innovative technology SERS (Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy) to measure the circulating microRNAs in complex biological samples, like blood or serum, and to use them as biomarker candidates for diagnosis and follow-up treatment in the oncologic field.

To develop an integrated system capable of ensuring patient control outside of the hospital environment, the project will also create a database platform for the storage of the analysed POC data.


The final project will produce a prototype for a rapid POC test capable of measuring the circulating microRNAs in patients with liver cancer and predisposing chronic pathologies, as well as a monitoring platform capable of ensuring the patient’s surveillance in the hospital environment and in other contexts.


The POC will be composed of three components that will create a POC-SERS integrated system:

  • Support for the separation and binding of microRNAs (strip and polyfunctional matrix).
  • Detection system composed of spectrometer RAMAN portable SERS and a nanostructured sensor SERS, integrated with an innovative device developed during the project.
  • Collection system, data analysis and integration of the clinical and molecular data (telematics management software).


In recent years, attempts to identify new biomarkers to replace the current diagnostic techniques and follow-up activities in the field of oncology have favored the transition to personalised medicine ‘to cure the right patient at the right time, with the right dose of the right drug’.

The circulating microRNAs are considered good bio-marking candidates thanks to the association with certain cancer pathologies and to resistance at degradation, PH variations and temperature modification.

Nowadays, only specialized research and analysis centres due to the high costs and complexity of use can use the circulating microRNAs detection technologies.

To ensure the transition from “bench” to “bedside” is necessary a low-cost technology for microRNA detection that can be widely disseminated in the hospitals as well as in the whole territory.

The point of care (POC) is the most known and used analysis system in the current clinical practice. The rising uses of these devices have a positive effect on the national healthcare system budget with the reducing of the expensive analysis activities.

The technology of lateral flow-based POC systems allows the spotting and production techniques for the analysis of nucleic acids in appropriately engineered supports.

The current absence of specific tests for circulating microRNAs detection is a new market opportunity for a rapid test.

The design idea of SERMI4Cancer involves the development of a POC system integrated with the innovative SERS (Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy) technology for the detection of circulating microRNAs. Using the low-cost, portable and user-friendly technology makes it possible to detect the chemical composition of complex biological samples, such as blood or serum.

The RamanSERS spectrum like molecular fingerprint can be used in many fields of medicine.

Thanks to the high chemical specificity is possible a direct detection of the circulating microRNAs without a particular staining or marking methods of the analyte, these characteristics makes this technology a suitable integration for the POC system.

The R&D activity will be developed in a pilot project in the hematology field. During the project the pathological progression will be analyzed; starting from the preneoplastic conditions till the development of hepatocellular carcinoma will be considered. This type of cancer disease represents the world's second cancer mortality rate and its incidence is estimated to increase over the next years.

The ultimate goal of the project is to produce a rapid point of care test prototype for measuring circulating microRNAs in liver cancer patients and predisposing chronic pathologies. The project envisages the development of 3 components that will form an integrated POC-SERS system:

  • The microRNA separation and binding support (polyfunctional matrix strip);
  • The detection system consists of SERS (Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy) RAMAN spectrophotometer and a SOST nanostructured sensor, integrated with innovative support developed during the project.

Figure 1. The collection system, data analysis and integration of clinical and molecular data (telematic management software).

As defined in the current National Oncology Plan, ones of the targets is to increase the survival of oncologic patients by monitoring the at-risk population and preventing complications and recurrences as well as reducing costs by taking appropriate measures and using technological innovation.

Starting from a simple blood sampling it will be possible to read the data through a Raman spectrometer, and then process and transfer it via a dedicated computer platform. The point of care will be a useful device to monitor the patients inside and outside the hospital, and the territorial integration of this management platform will be useful for the patients care services network implementation. 

The development of this system will ensure a more efficient and effective management of liver pathologies, improve the therapeutic pathway and reduce the complications as well as management costs.


Starting date: 22/05/2017

End date: 21/05/2019

Total project: € 1.210.312,26

Total grant: € 886.493,75

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