Big Potential from Small Agents: Nanoparticles for Imaging-Based Companion Diagnostics

ACS Nano. 2018 Mar 27;12(3):2106-2121. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.7b07252. Epub 2018 Mar 1.


The importance of medical imaging in the diagnosis and monitoring of cancer cannot be overstated. As personalized cancer treatments are gaining popularity, a need for more advanced imaging techniques has grown significantly. Nanoparticles are uniquely suited to fill this void, not only as imaging contrast agents but also as companion diagnostics. This review provides an overview of many ways nanoparticle imaging agents have contributed to cancer imaging, both preclinically and in the clinic, as well as charting future directions in companion diagnostics. We conclude that, while nanoparticle-based imaging agents are not without considerable scientific and developmental challenges, they enable enhanced imaging in nearly every modality, hold potential as in vivo companion diagnostics, and offer precise cancer treatment and maximize intervention efficacy.

Keywords: EPR effect; cancer; companion diagnostics; contrast agent; imaging; molecular imaging; nanoparticles; personalized medicine; theranostics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Contrast Media / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Nanoparticles / analysis*
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Optical Imaging / methods
  • Photoacoustic Techniques / methods
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Precision Medicine / methods
  • Theranostic Nanomedicine / methods
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Ultrasonography / methods


  • Biomarkers
  • Contrast Media