We describe the development of a surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) method for cancer gene detection. The technology uses DNA gene probes based on SERS labels for gene detection. The detection method uses nanostructured metallic substrates as SERS-active platforms. The surface-enhanced Raman gene (SERGen) probes can be used to detect DNA targets via hybridization to DNA sequences complementary to these probes. The probes do not require the use of radioactive labels and have great potential to provide both sensitivity and selectivity. The usefulness of the SERGen approach and its applications in cancer gene diagnostics (e.g. BRCA1 breast cancer gene and BAX gene) is discussed. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.