Promises and challenges in the translation of image-guided cancer therapy using theranostic nanoparticles

L. Yang, W. Qian, M. Satpathy, L. Wang, G.Y. Lee, Z. Cao, R. Zielinski, J. Capala, S. Nie, Y.A. Wang, H. Mao
Emory University School of Medicine, US

Keywords: receptor-targeted nanoparticles, targeted drug delivery, molecular cancer imaging, magnetic resonance image-guided therapy, optical image-guided surgery


Current advances in the development of multifunctional nanoparticles hold great promises for effective treatment of highly heterogeneous human cancers. Drug resistance represents the major challenge in clinical oncology. Theranostic nanoparticles with the abilities to target tumors, carry therapeutic agents, and produce contrasts for tumor imaging offer an exciting means for the treatment of drug resistant cancers. We have developed an integrated cancer image-therapy protocol that takes advantages of the multifunctionality of theranostic nanoparticles and advanced molecular imaging methods for biomarker targeted tumor imaging, monitoring therapeutic response, and optical image-guided surgery. The magnetic iron oxide nanoparticle (IONP) platform developed by our group are targeted to epidermal growth factor receptor, HER-2/Neu receptor, and urokinase plasminogen activator receptor, which are highly expressed in many types of human cancers. These receptor-targeted IONPs have the capacity to carry single or multiple therapeutic agents for drug delivery, near infrared fluorescence for spectroscopic optical imaging, and can be used for MRI. We have shown specificity and sensitivity of optical and MR imaging using the nanoparticles as targeted molecular contrast agents in orthotopic human breast, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer xenograft models. We further demonstrated the efficacy of targeted therapy and MRI-monitoring drug delivery and response after systemic delivery of the theranostic nanoparticles in above animal tumor models.