National Science Foundation
Early Lung Cancer Detection
State: West Virginia

An interdisciplinary university/industry team at West Virginia University (WVU) is merging nanoscience and microdevices to meet the need for improved early lung cancer detection—an essential element to improving survival rates. The vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) protein is a cancer marker protein linked to tumor growth and distribution; therefore, the ability to detect VEGF in very low concentrations may permit early detection. The research team has been successful in refining an anti-VEGF-coated microcantilever sensor so that its sensitivity has been significantly improved and now exceeds current assays by a factor of 25. Proof-of-concept experiments have shown microcantilevers coated with anti-VEGF selectively detect VEGF in the presence of other proteins.

The research team is part of WVNano—West Virginia’s nanoscale science and engineering initiative, with major funding from the state’s National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Infrastructure Improvement award. WVNano focuses on the convergence of materials, device and biomolecular work to achieve new advances in molecular recognition devices. NSF support enabled the formation of the interdisciplinary research team, which includes faculty and students from WVU’s Department of Physics, Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, in partnership with biotech startup Protea Biosciences Inc. The members of the project research team have become intimately familiar with a wide variety of nanoscience-related techniques, including atomic force microscopy, vacuum deposition, biochemistry, electron microscopy, and electron-beam writing.  The group’s long-term objective is to develop novel VEGF detection techniques that increase the sensitivity for VEGF by orders of magnitude over current methods (ELISA). Efforts continue to improve the sensitivity, and, in parallel, the clinical utility of the microcantilever-based VEGF sensor are being explored.

Partners: Protea Biosciences, Inc, West Virginia University, Marshall University

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