Advancing Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Using Raman Spectroscopy

Fact checked by" Jerome Workman, Jr.

A recent study examined how advancements in Raman spectroscopy have aided breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

In a comprehensive review published in Applied Spectroscopy Reviews, recent advancements in Raman spectroscopy show progress can be made in the pursuit of improving diagnosis, treatment, and patient outcomes for breast cancer (1).

Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, especially for women. It accounts for approximately 6.9% of all cancer-related deaths every year on average (1). According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the number of breast cancer diagnoses and deaths are expected to increase. By 2040, the projection is that new breast cancer cases will exceed 3 million annually, and that there will be approximately 1 million fatalities each year to the disease (2,3).

Breast cancer awareness | Image Credit: © Vasyl -

Breast cancer awareness | Image Credit: © Vasyl -

The research team from The First Hospital of Jilin University, led by Bing Han, documented the latest advancements in Raman spectroscopy and how they are being applied to improve clinical analysis of breast cancer. In their review article, Han and the team focused on four Raman spectroscopic techniques: surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS); resonance Raman spectroscopy (RRS); spatially shifted Raman spectroscopy (SSRS); and coherent Raman scattering spectroscopy (CRSS).

Raman spectroscopy, which provides rapid and specific biochemical molecular information, has emerged as a critical tool in the clinical evaluation of breast cancer by analyzing the spectral characteristics of samples at various stages of the disease (1). As a result, clinicians can tailor individualized treatment plans, enhance surgical outcomes, and refine therapeutic strategies to promote better prognoses for patients (1). Each of the spectroscopic techniques mentioned in the review article offer distinct advantages depending on the clinical scenario, which the authors detail in their article.

For the first Raman spectroscopy technique, the research team examined SERS. This technique amplifies the Raman scattering effect, making it possible to detect even trace amounts of biomolecules. This sensitivity is particularly beneficial in identifying cancer biomarkers in body fluids and tissues, offering a non-invasive method for early detection and monitoring disease progression (1).

Resonance Raman spectroscopy enhances Raman signals of specific molecules by tuning the laser frequency to match the electronic transition of the target molecules. This technique excels in studying specific molecular structures and their changes during cancer progression, providing deeper insights into the biochemical alterations associated with breast cancer (1).

Spatially shifted Raman spectroscopy (SSRS) enables the analysis of subsurface tissue layers by spatially shifting the collection of Raman signals. This technique is invaluable for examining breast tissue microcalcifications, which are critical indicators of malignancy (1). By accurately characterizing these microcalcifications, SSRS aids in the precise diagnosis and staging of breast cancer (1).

And finally, coherent Raman scattering spectroscopy (CRS) offers high-resolution, real-time imaging of tissues, facilitating the distinction between malignant and benign tissues during surgery. This capability has been crucial for ensuring complete tumor resection while preserving healthy tissue; as a result, this technique has been helpful in improving surgical outcomes and reducing recurrence rates (1).

Looking forward, the integration of Raman spectroscopy into clinical practice holds great promise. As optical technology continues to advance and clinical research needs diversify, these techniques are expected to become more refined and accessible, further enhancing their diagnostic and therapeutic potential.


(1) Ma, M.; Zhang, J.; Liu, Y.; et al. Advances in the Clinical Application of Raman Spectroscopy in Breast Cancer. Appl. Spec. Rev. 2024, DOI: 10.1080/05704928.2024.2352519

(2) Sung, H.; Ferlay, J.; Siegel, R. L.; Laversanne, M.; Soerjomataram, I.; Jemal, A.; Bray, F. Global Cancer Statistics 2020: GLOBOCAN Estimates of Incidence and Mortality Worldwide for 36 Cancers in 185 Countries. CA Cancer J. Clin. 2021, 71, 209–249. DOI: 10.3322/caac.21660

(3) Unger-Saldaña, K. Challenges to the Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Breast Cancer in Developing Countries. World J. Clin. Oncol. 2014, 5, 465–477. DOI: 10.5306/wjco.v5.i3.465

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