Theranostic applications of carbon nanomaterials in cancer: Focus on imaging and cargo delivery

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Carbon based nanomaterials have attracted significant attention over the past decades due to their unique physical properties, versatile functionalization chemistry, and biological compatibility. In this review, we will summarize the current state-of-the-art applications of carbon nanomaterials in cancer imaging and drug delivery/therapy. The carbon nanomaterials will be categorized into fullerenes, nanotubes, nanohorns, nanodiamonds, nanodots and graphene derivatives based on their morphologies. The chemical conjugation/functionalization strategies of each category will be introduced before focusing on their applications in cancer imaging (fluorescence/bioluminescence, magnetic resonance (MR), positron emission tomography (PET), single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), photoacoustic, Raman imaging, etc.) and cargo (chemo/gene/therapy) delivery. The advantages and limitations of each category and the potential clinical utilization of these carbon nanomaterials will be discussed. Multifunctional carbon nanoplatforms have the potential to serve as optimal candidates for image-guided delivery vectors for cancer.

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