Theranostic Fluorescent Probes

Chem Rev. 2024 Mar 13;124(5):2699-2804. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.3c00778. Epub 2024 Feb 29.


The ability to gain spatiotemporal information, and in some cases achieve spatiotemporal control, in the context of drug delivery makes theranostic fluorescent probes an attractive and intensely investigated research topic. This interest is reflected in the steep rise in publications on the topic that have appeared over the past decade. Theranostic fluorescent probes, in their various incarnations, generally comprise a fluorophore linked to a masked drug, in which the drug is released as the result of certain stimuli, with both intrinsic and extrinsic stimuli being reported. This release is then signaled by the emergence of a fluorescent signal. Importantly, the use of appropriate fluorophores has enabled not only this emerging fluorescence as a spatiotemporal marker for drug delivery but also has provided modalities useful in photodynamic, photothermal, and sonodynamic therapeutic applications. In this review we highlight recent work on theranostic fluorescent probes with a particular focus on probes that are activated in tumor microenvironments. We also summarize efforts to develop probes for other applications, such as neurodegenerative diseases and antibacterials. This review celebrates the diversity of designs reported to date, from discrete small-molecule systems to nanomaterials. Our aim is to provide insights into the potential clinical impact of this still-emerging research direction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Fluorescence
  • Fluorescent Dyes*
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Theranostic Nanomedicine


  • Fluorescent Dyes