A competitive binding assay based on localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) of folic acid-functionalized gold nanoparticles (FA-AuNPs) and human dihydrofolate reductase enzyme (hDHFR) was developed to detect nanomolar to micromolar concentrations of the widely applied anti-cancer drug, methotrexate (MTX). By the nature of the competitive assay for MTX, the LSPR shift from specific binding between FA-AuNPs and the free enzyme was inversely proportional to the concentration of MTX. In addition, the dynamic range for MTX was tuned from 10−11 to 10−6 M by varying the concentration of hDHFR from 1 to 100 nM. Inter-day reproducibility and recovery of MTX spiked in phosphate buffer saline (PBS) were excellent. Potential interferents such as FA, trimethoprim (TMP) and 4-amino-4-deoxy-N-methylpteroic acid (DAMPA) did not occur in the concentration range of interest for MTX. Clinical samples of human serum from patients undergoing MTX chemotherapy were analyzed following a simple solid-phase extraction step to isolate MTX from the serum matrix, with a limit of detection of 155 nM. Validation of the LSPR method was carried out in comparison to Fluorescence Polarization Immunoassay (FPIA), a commonly used method in clinical settings, and LC-MS/MS, a reference technique. The results of the LSPR competitive assay compared well to FPIA and LC-MS/MS, with a slope of 2.4 and 1.1, respectively, for the correlation plots. The method established herein is intended for therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) of MTX levels in patients undergoing chemotherapy to ensure safety and efficacy of the treatment.
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