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Curr Pharm Des. 2019;25(46):4836-4847. doi: 10.2174/1381612825666191216150052.

A Review on Cancer Therapy Based on the Photothermal Effect of Gold Nanorod.

Xu W1,2, Lin Q1,2, Yin Y1,2, Xu D1,2, Huang X3, Xu B4, Wang G5.

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Hunan Key Laboratory of Processed Food for Special Medical Purpose, Central South University of Forestry and Technology, Changsha, 410004, China.
National Engineering Laboratory for Rice and By-products Further Processing, College of Food Science and Engineering, Central South University of Forestry & Technology, Changsha, 410004, China.
Hunan Edible Fungi Institute, Changsha, 410004, China.
Wangcheng Commodity Inspection Center, Changsha, 410200, China.
Biomedical Research Center, Hunan University of Medicine, Huaihua, 418000, China.



Cancer causes millions of deaths and huge economic losses every year. The currently practiced methods for cancer therapy have many defects, such as side effects, low curate rate, and discomfort for patients.


Herein, we summarize the applications of gold nanorods (AuNRs) in cancer therapy based on their photothermal effect-the conversion of light into local heat under irradiation.


The recent advances in the synthesis and regulation of AuNRs, and facile surface functionalization further facilitate their use in cancer treatment. For cancer therapy, AuNRs need to be modified or coated with biocompatible molecules (e.g. polyethylene glycol) and materials (e.g. silicon) to reduce the cytotoxicity and increase their biocompatibility, stability, and retention time in the bloodstream. The accumulation of AuNRs in cancerous cells and tissues is due to the high leakage in tumors or the specific interaction between the cell surface and functional molecules on AuNRs such as antibodies, aptamers, and receptors.


AuNRs are employed not only as therapeutics to ablate tumors solely based on the heat produced under laser that could denature protein and activate the apoptotic pathway, but also as synergistic therapies combined with photodynamic therapy, chemotherapy, and gene therapy to kill cancer more efficiently. More importantly, other materials like TiO2, graphene oxide, and silicon, etc. are incorporated on the AuNR surface for multimodal cancer treatment with high drug loadings and improved cancer-killing efficiency. To highlight their applications in cancer treatment, examples of therapeutic effects both in vitro and in vivo are presented.


AuNRs have potential applications for clinical cancer therapy.


Photothermal effect; cancer therapy; cancer-killing efficiency; gold nanorod; photothermal therapy; synergistic therapy.

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