Quantitative fluorescence nanoscopy for cancer biomedicine

Tao Huang, Andrew Nickerson, Alec Peters, Xiaolin Nan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


Cancer is a major health threat worldwide. Options for targeted cancer therapy, however, are often limited, in a large part due to our incomplete understanding of how key processes including oncogenesis and drug response are mediated at the molecular level. New imaging techniques for visualizing biomolecules and their interactions at the nanometer and single molecule scales, collectively named fluorescence nanoscopy, hold the promise to transform biomedical research by providing direct mechanistic insight into cellular processes. We discuss the principles of quantitative single-molecule localization microscopy (SMLM), a subset of fluorescence nanoscopy, and their applications to cancer biomedicine. In particular, we will examine oncogenesis and drug resistance mediated by mutant Ras, which is associated with ∼1/3 of all human cancers but has remained an intractable drug target. At ∼20 nm spatial and single-molecule stoichiometric resolutions, SMLM clearly showed that mutant Ras must form dimers to activate its effector pathways and drive oncogenesis. SMLM further showed that the Raf kinase, one of the most important effectors of Ras, also forms dimers upon activation by Ras. Moreover, treatment of cells expressing wild type Raf with Raf inhibitors induces Raf dimer formation in a manner dependent on Ras dimerization. Together, these data suggest that Ras dimers mediate oncogenesis and drug resistance in tumors with hyperactive Ras and can potentially be targeted for cancer therapy. We also discuss recent advances in SMLM that enable simultaneous imaging of multiple biomolecules and their interactions at the nanoscale. Our work demonstrates the power of quantitative SMLM in cancer biomedicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISBN (Print)9781628417166
StatePublished - 2015
EventBiosensing and Nanomedicine VIII - San Diego, United States
Duration: Aug 9 2015Aug 12 2015


OtherBiosensing and Nanomedicine VIII
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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