Theranostics 2018; 8(3):663-675. doi:10.7150/thno.21927

Research Paper

Mesoporous Carbon Nanospheres as a Multifunctional Carrier for Cancer Theranostics

Libo Zhou1, Ying Jing1, Yubin Liu3, Zhihe Liu1, Duyang Gao3, Haobin Chen1, Weiye Song1, Tao Wang1, Xiaofeng Fang1, Weiping Qin1, Zhen Yuan3, Sheng Dai4, Zhen-An Qiao1✉, Changfeng Wu2✉

1. State Key Laboratory on Integrated Optoelectronics, College of Electronic Science and Engineering; State Key Laboratory of Inorganic Synthesis and Preparation Chemistry, College of Chemistry, Jilin University, Changchun 130012, China;
2. Department of Biomedical Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen 518055, China;
3. Bioimaging Core, Faculty of Health Science, University of Macau Taipa, Macau SAR, 999078, China;
4. Chemical Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, 37831, USA.


Optical nanomaterials with intense absorption in near-infrared (NIR) region hold great promise for biomedical applications such as photothermal therapy (PTT) and photoacoustic imaging (PAI). In this work, we report mesoporous carbon nanospheres (Meso-CNs) with broadband and intense absorption in the UV-Vis-NIR region (300-1400 nm) and explore their potential as a multifunctional platform for photoacoustic imaging and chemo-photothermal therapy.

Methods: Meso-CNs were prepared by a “silica-assisted” synthesis strategy and characterized by transmission electron microscope and optical spectroscopy. We investigated the photothermal conversion and photoacoustic imaging of Meso-CNs in comparison with single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), graphene and gold nanorods (GNRs). In vitro cellular assays and in vivo chemo-photothermal combination therapy were performed.

Results: The absorption coefficients of Meso-CNs are 1.5-2 times higher than those of SWCNTs and graphene and are comparable to those of GNRs in both the first and the second near-infrared optical windows (NIR-I and NIR-II) of tissues. When exposed to an NIR laser, the photothermal and photoacoustic signal generation of Meso-CNs are also stronger than those of SWCNTs, graphene, and GNRs. DOX was loaded into Meso-CNs with a high efficiency (35 wt%) owing to the unique mesoporous structure. Particularly, the drug release from Meso-CNs is sensitive to both pH and NIR light stimulation. In vivo chemo-photothermal combination therapy demonstrates a remarkable inhibition effect on tumor growth under NIR laser treatment.

Conclusions: We have developed Meso-CNs for photothermal conversion and photoacoustic imaging. The porous structure also serves as a drug carrier and the drug release can be controlled by pH and external light. The high drug loading capacity, superior photothermal and photoacoustic generation, together with the apparent chemo-photothermal therapeutic effect, make Meso-CNs a promising platform for cancer theranostics.

Keywords: mesoporous carbon nanospheres, near-infrared absorption, drug delivery, photoacoustic imaging, photothermal therapy.

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How to cite this article:
Zhou L, Jing Y, Liu Y, Liu Z, Gao D, Chen H, Song W, Wang T, Fang X, Qin W, Yuan Z, Dai S, Qiao ZA, Wu C. Mesoporous Carbon Nanospheres as a Multifunctional Carrier for Cancer Theranostics. Theranostics 2018; 8(3):663-675. doi:10.7150/thno.21927. Available from