© 2017 Elsevier B.V. There has been an interest in developing multimodal approaches to combine the advantages of individual imaging modalities, as well as to compensate for respective weaknesses. We previously reported a composite nano-system composed of gadolinium-doped mesoporous silica nanoparticle and gold nanoparticle (Gd-Au NPs) as an efficient MRI contrast agent for in vivo cancer imaging. However, MRI lacks sensitivity and is unsuitable for in vitro cancer detection. Thus, here we performed a study to use the Gd-Au NPs for detection and imaging of a widely recognized human cancer biomarker, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), in individual human cancer cells with surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS). The Gd-Au NPs were sequentially conjugated with a monoclonal antibody recognizing EGFR and a Raman reporter molecule, 4-meraptobenzoic acid (MBA), to generate a characteristic SERS signal at 1075 cm− 1. By spatially mapping the SERS intensity at 1075 cm− 1, cellular distribution of EGFR and its relocalization on the plasma membrane were measured in situ. In addition, the EGFR expression levels in three human cancer cell lines (S18, A431 and A549) were measured using this SERS probe, which were consistent with the comparable measurements using immunoblotting and immunofluorescence. Our SERS results show that functionalized Gd-Au NPs successfully targeted EGFR molecules in three human cancer cell lines and monitored changes in single cell EGFR distribution in situ, demonstrating its potential to study cell activity under physiological conditions. This SERS study, combined with our previous MRI study, suggests the Gd-Au nanocomposite is a promising candidate contrast agent for multimodal cancer imaging.