Gold nanoparticle-mediated photothermal therapy: applications and opportunities for multimodal cancer treatment

Rachel S. Riley, Emily S. Day

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

539 Scopus citations


Photothermal therapy (PTT), in which nanoparticles embedded within tumors generate heat in response to exogenously applied laser light, has been well documented as an independent strategy for highly selective cancer treatment. Gold-based nanoparticles are the main mediators of PTT because they offer: (1) biocompatibility, (2) small diameters that enable tumor penetration upon systemic delivery, (3) simple gold-thiol bioconjugation chemistry for the attachment of desired molecules, (4) efficient light-to-heat conversion, and (5) the ability to be tuned to absorb near-infrared light, which penetrates tissue more deeply than other wavelengths of light. In addition to acting as a standalone therapy, gold nanoparticle-mediated PTT has recently been evaluated in combination with other therapies, such as chemotherapy, gene regulation, and immunotherapy, for enhanced anti-tumor effects. When delivered independently, the therapeutic success of molecular agents is hindered by premature degradation, insufficient tumor delivery, and off-target toxicity. PTT can overcome these limitations by enhancing tumor- or cell-specific delivery of these agents or by sensitizing cancer cells to these additional therapies. All together, these benefits can enhance the therapeutic success of both PTT and the secondary treatment while lowering the required doses of the individual agents, leading to fewer off-target effects. Given the benefits of combining gold nanoparticle-mediated PTT with other treatment strategies, many exciting opportunities for multimodal cancer treatment are emerging that will ultimately lead to improved patient outcomes. WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol 2017, 9:e1449. doi: 10.1002/wnan.1449. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1449
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering


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