Theranostics 2021; 11(18):8706-8737. doi:10.7150/thno.57004 This issue


Smart magnetic resonance imaging-based theranostics for cancer

Beatriz Brito1,2,3, Thomas W. Price1, Juan Gallo3✉, Manuel Bañobre-López3✉, Graeme J. Stasiuk1✉

1. Department of Imaging Chemistry and Biology, School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences, King's College London, Strand, London, UK, SE1 7EH.
2. School of Life Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Hull, Cottingham Road, Hull, UK, HU6 7RX.
3. Advanced Magnetic Theranostic Nanostructures Lab, International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, Av. Mestre José Veiga, 4715-330 Braga.

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Brito B, Price TW, Gallo J, Bañobre-López M, Stasiuk GJ. Smart magnetic resonance imaging-based theranostics for cancer. Theranostics 2021; 11(18):8706-8737. doi:10.7150/thno.57004. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Smart theranostics are dynamic platforms that integrate multiple functions, including at least imaging, therapy, and responsiveness, in a single agent. This review showcases a variety of responsive theranostic agents developed specifically for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), due to the privileged position this non-invasive, non-ionising imaging modality continues to hold within the clinical imaging field. Different MRI smart theranostic designs have been devised in the search for more efficient cancer therapy, and improved diagnostic efficiency, through the increase of the local concentration of therapeutic effectors and MRI signal intensity in pathological tissues. This review explores novel small-molecule and nanosized MRI theranostic agents for cancer that exhibit responsiveness to endogenous (change in pH, redox environment, or enzymes) or exogenous (temperature, ultrasound, or light) stimuli. The challenges and obstacles in the design and in vivo application of responsive theranostics are also discussed to guide future research in this interdisciplinary field towards more controllable, efficient, and diagnostically relevant smart theranostics agents.

Keywords: theranostics, responsive, smart, magnetic resonance imaging, cancer, contrast agents, therapy, nanoparticles, small molecules