Deep-Tissue Activation of Photonanomedicines: An Update and Clinical Perspectives

Nimit Shah, John Squire, Mina Guirguis, Debabrata Saha, Kenneth Hoyt, Ken Kang Hsin Wang, Vijay Agarwal, Girgis Obaid

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


With the continued development of nanomaterials over the past two decades, specialized photonanomedicines (light-activable nanomedicines, PNMs) have evolved to become excitable by alternative energy sources that typically penetrate tissue deeper than visible light. These sources include electromagnetic radiation lying outside the visible near-infrared spectrum, high energy particles, and acoustic waves, amongst others. Various direct activation mechanisms have leveraged unique facets of specialized nanomaterials, such as upconversion, scintillation, and radiosensitization, as well as several others, in order to activate PNMs. Other indirect activation mechanisms have leveraged the effect of the interaction of deeply penetrating energy sources with tissue in order to activate proximal PNMs. These indirect mechanisms include sonoluminescence and Cerenkov radiation. Such direct and indirect deep-tissue activation has been explored extensively in the preclinical setting to facilitate deep-tissue anticancer photodynamic therapy (PDT); however, clinical translation of these approaches is yet to be explored. This review provides a summary of the state of the art in deep-tissue excitation of PNMs and explores the translatability of such excitation mechanisms towards their clinical adoption. A special emphasis is placed on how current clinical instrumentation can be repurposed to achieve deep-tissue PDT with the mechanisms discussed in this review, thereby further expediting the translation of these highly promising strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2004
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerenkov radiation
  • X-ray
  • bioluminescence
  • chemiluminescence
  • photodynamic therapy
  • photonanomedicines
  • proton therapy
  • sonodynamic therapy
  • tumor
  • two-photon
  • ultrasound therapy
  • upconversion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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