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Inorganic nanoparticles have received increased attention in the recent past as potential diagnostic and therapeutic systems in the field of oncology. Inorganic nanoparticles have demonstrated successes in imaging and treatment of tumors both ex vivo and in vivo, with some promise towards clinical trials. This review primarily discusses progress in applications of inorganic nanoparticles for cancer imaging and treatment, with an emphasis on in vivo studies. Advances in the use of semiconductor fluorescent quantum dots, carbon nanotubes, gold nanoparticles (spheres, shells, rods, cages), iron oxide magnetic nanoparticles and ceramic nanoparticles in tumor targeting, imaging, photothermal therapy and drug delivery applications are discussed. Limitations and toxicity issues associated with inorganic nanoparticles in living organisms are also discussed.