Functionalization of Metal and Carbon Nanoparticles with Potential in Cancer Theranostics

Molecules. 2021 May 21;26(11):3085. doi: 10.3390/molecules26113085.


Cancer theranostics is a new concept of medical approach that attempts to combine in a unique nanoplatform diagnosis, monitoring and therapy so as to provide eradication of a solid tumor in a non-invasive fashion. There are many available solutions to tackle cancer using theranostic agents such as photothermal therapy (PTT) and photodynamic therapy (PDT) under the guidance of imaging techniques (e.g., magnetic resonance-MRI, photoacoustic-PA or computed tomography-CT imaging). Additionally, there are several potential theranostic nanoplatforms able to combine diagnosis and therapy at once, such as gold nanoparticles (GNPs), graphene oxide (GO), superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) and carbon nanodots (CDs). Currently, surface functionalization of these nanoplatforms is an extremely useful protocol for effectively tuning their structures, interface features and physicochemical properties. This approach is much more reliable and amenable to fine adjustment, reaching both physicochemical and regulatory requirements as a function of the specific field of application. Here, we summarize and compare the most promising metal- and carbon-based theranostic tools reported as potential candidates in precision cancer theranostics. We focused our review on the latest developments in surface functionalization strategies for these nanosystems, or hybrid nanocomposites consisting of their combination, and discuss their main characteristics and potential applications in precision cancer medicine.

Keywords: biopolymers; cancer therapy; carbon dots; carbon nanoparticles; conjugation; diagnosis; graphene; precision medicine; theranostics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbon / chemistry*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Graphite / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Precision Medicine
  • Theranostic Nanomedicine*


  • graphene oxide
  • Carbon
  • Graphite