Cancer liquid biopsy detects circulating biomarkers in body fluids, provides information that complements medical imaging and tissue biopsy, allows sequential monitoring of cancer development, and, therefore, has shown great promise in cancer screening, diagnosis, and prognosis. Exosomes (also known as small extracellular vesicles) are cell-secreted, nanosized vesicles that transport biomolecules such as proteins and RNAs for intercellular communication. Exosomes are actively involved in cancer development and progression and have become promising circulating biomarkers for cancer liquid biopsy. Conventional exosome characterization methods such as quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) are limited by low sensitivity, tedious process, large sample volume, and high cost. To overcome these challenges, new biosensors have been developed to offer sensitive, simple, fast, high throughput, low sample consumption, and cost-effective detection of exosomal biomarkers. In this review, we summarized recent advances in nanotechnology-enabled biosensors that detect exosomal RNAs (both microRNAs and mRNAs) and proteins for cancer screening, diagnosis, and prognosis. The biosensors were grouped based on their sensing mechanisms, including fluorescence-based biosensors, colorimetric biosensors, electrical/electrochemical biosensors, plasmonics-based biosensors, surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS)-based biosensors, and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and photothermal biosensors. The future directions for the development of exosome-based biosensors were discussed.
Keywords: Exosomes; biosensors; cancer liquid biopsy; extracellular vesicles; mRNA; microRNA; protein.