Semiconductor Nanosensor Array for Breast Cancer Biomarkers

Shyam ErramilliShyamsunder Erramilli, Ph.D.
Boston University – Engineering
Professor – Biomed Engineering
Professor – Physics


Carol L. Rosenberg, MDCarol L. Rosenberg , M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine & Pathology
Boston Medical Center – Medicine


The incidence of breast cancer is on the rise world-wide and is the second most prevalent form of the disease among American women, accounting for more than 40,000 US deaths in 2007. It is becoming increasingly evident that breast cancer is a disease in which each patient’s tumor may be unique, requiring treatment protocols that are tailored to the individual to be most effective. To achieve this level of individualization, there is a need for new tools that while remaining relatively inexpensive, can rapidly classify the individual patient’s disease according to its molecular “fingerprint,” consisting of hundreds of biomarkers or genes.

OBJECTIVE: In collaboration with the nanotechnlogy group of Prof Pritiraj Mohanty, the research has approached this problem through a novel combination of semiconductor nanofabrication, analytical chemistry of surface conjugation, cancer diagnosis of tumor markers and device engineering, resulting in the development of portable, manufacturable, ultrasensitive nanosensor probe arrays for many medical applications, ranging from emergency-room use for the fast detection of trace molecules to monitoring sensors and early-stage detection to use in point-of-care clinical settings. This semiconductor-based method will allow rapid and simultaneous detection of 20 specific breast cancer biomarkers and promises to yield smaller, faster, and cheaper devices than conventional histochemical assays which, furthermore, will not sacrifice on sensitivity or specificity.

The current nanochip prototype is composed of silicon nanowires, fabricated in situ within a silicon chip via electron-beam lithography and nanomachining, and provides a 100X reduction in detection time, 20X reduction in detection costs, and 100X reduction in device costs compared to other biosensor methods currently available today. The platform proposed here is sufficiently flexible that the device can be adapted to sense biomarkers of interest to other pathologies and metabolite sensing. Ultimately the team hopes that regular screenings with this technology will result in early detection of breast cancer metastasis biomarkers and lead to early intervention, with significantly improved patient outcomes.









Erramilli Laboratory (Erramilli Lab)

Research in Nanotechnology Website (Mohanty Group)