Hybrid (organic/inorganic) nanoparticles emerged as a simple solution to build “theranostic” systems. Due to their physical properties, superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) and plasmonic gold nanoparticles (Au-NPs) are extensively studied as a part of diagnostic and therapeutic strategies in cancer treatments. They can be used as agents for in vitro or in vivo imaging, for magnetic drug targeting and/or thermal therapy. Their functionalization with organic shells enhances their potential performance in tumor targeting and drug delivery. The advances in such hybrid nanocarriers are well illustrated with the example of the anticancer drug doxorubicin (DOX).
The aim of this review is to give a multidisciplinary overview of such smart nanosystems loaded with DOX, based on examples taken from recent publications. From a physico-chemical point of view, we discuss the choices for the strategies for loading DOX and the consequences on drug release. From a biological point of view, we analyze the in vitro and in vivo assays concerning tumor imaging, targeted drug delivery and anticancer efficiency. Future opportunities and challenges are also addressed.