Published online Dec 28, 2013. doi: 10.4329/wjr.v5.i12.468
Revised: October 31, 2013
Accepted: November 15, 2013
Published online: December 28, 2013
Microbubbles have been used for many years now in clinical practice as contrast agents in ultrasound imaging. Recently, their therapeutic applications have also attracted more attention. However, the short circulation time (minutes) and relatively large size (two to ten micrometers) of currently used commercial microbubbles do not allow effective extravasation into tumor tissue, preventing efficient tumor targeting. Fortunately, more multifunctional and theranostic nanoparticles with some special advantages over the traditional microbubbles have been widely investigated and explored for biomedical applications. The way to synthesize an ideal ultrasound contrast agent based on nanoparticles in order to achieve an expected effect on contrast imaging is a key technique. Currently a number of nanomaterials, including liposomes, polymers, micelles, dendrimers, emulsions, quantum dots, solid nanoparticles etc., have already been applied to pre or clinical trials. Multifunctional and theranostic nanoparticles with some special advantages, such as the tumor-targeted (passive or active), multi-mode contrast agents (magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasonography or fluorescence), carrier or enhancer of drug delivery, and combined chemo or thermal therapy etc., are rapidly gaining popularity and have shown a promising application in the field of cancer treatment. In this mini review, the trends and the advances of multifunctional and theranostic nanoparticles are briefly discussed.
Core tip: The theranostic nanoparticles are defined as nanoparticles with double functions (for both therapeutic and diagnostic purposes) and are commonly applied to simultaneous drug delivery and molecular imaging.