Photoacoustic imaging of living subjects offers higher spatial resolution and allows deeper tissues to be imaged compared with most optical imaging techniques. As many diseases do not exhibit a natural photoacoustic contrast, especially in their early stages, it is necessary to administer a photoacoustic contrast agent. A number of contrast agents for photoacoustic imaging have been suggested previously, but most were not shown to target a diseased site in living subjects. Here we show that single-walled carbon nanotubes conjugated with cyclic Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) peptides can be used as a contrast agent for photoacoustic imaging of tumours. Intravenous administration of these targeted nanotubes to mice bearing tumours showed eight times greater photoacoustic signal in the tumour than mice injected with non-targeted nanotubes. These results were verified ex vivo using Raman microscopy. Photoacoustic imaging of targeted single-walled carbon nanotubes may contribute to non-invasive cancer imaging and monitoring of nanotherapeutics in living subjects.