Free radicals for cancer theranostics

Biomaterials. 2021 Jan;266:120474. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2020.120474. Epub 2020 Oct 20.


Free radicals were generally regarded as highly reactive, transient and harmful species. In fact, some of the free radicals can also be inactive, long-lived and beneficial for our health. These properties of free radicals provide future possibilities for their application in various fields. Owning to their open-shell electronic structure, free radicals exhibit unique advantages in biomedical applications, such as high reactivity, photoacoustic and photothermal conversion ability, molecular magnetic. In this review, recent progress on free radicals and their applications in cancer theranostics are presented. Typical materials that exhibit controlled generation of free radicals and their applications for photodynamic therapy (PDT), chemodynamic therapy (CDT), sonodynamic therapy (SDT), gas therapy, hypoxic cancer treatment, photothermal therapy (PTT), photoacoustic imaging (PAI) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are summarized and discussed.

Keywords: Cancer theranostics; Chemodynamic therapy; Free radicals; Photodynamic therapy; Photothermal therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Free Radicals
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Precision Medicine
  • Theranostic Nanomedicine


  • Free Radicals