Incorporating gold nanoclusters and target-directed liposomes as a synergistic amplified colorimetric sensor for HER2-positive breast cancer cell detection

Theranostics. 2017 Feb 8;7(4):899-911. doi: 10.7150/thno.17927. eCollection 2017.


Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality in women. Successful development of sensitive nanoprobes for breast cancer cell detection is of great importance for breast cancer diagnosis and symptomatic treatment. Herein, inspired by the intrinsic peroxidase property of gold nanoclusters, high loading, and targeting ability of ErbB2/Her2 antibody functionalized liposomes, we report that gold nanoclusters-loaded, target-directed, functionalized liposomes can serve as a robust sensing platform for amplified colorimetric detection of HER2-positive breast cancer cells. This approach allows HER2-positive breast cancer cell identification at high sensitivity with high selectivity. In addition, the colorimetric "readout" offers extra advantages in terms of low-cost, portability, and easy-to-use applications. The practicality of this platform was further proved by successful detection of HER2-positive breast cancer cells in human serum samples and in breast cancer tissue, which indicated our proposed method has potential for application in cancer theranostics.

Keywords: Colorimetric sensor; artificial enzymes; breast cancer cells; gold nanoclusters; liposomes; signal amplification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Colorimetry / methods*
  • Gold / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liposomes / metabolism*
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / methods*
  • Nanoparticles / metabolism*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / analysis*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / immunology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Antibodies
  • Liposomes
  • Gold
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2