Metal nanoshells are a novel type of composite nanoparticle consisting of a dielectric core covered by a thin metallic shell which is typically gold. Nanoshells possess highly favorable optical and chemical properties for biomedical imaging and therapeutic applications. By varying the relative the dimensions of the core and the shell, the optical resonance of these nanoparticles can be precisely and systematically varied over a broad wavelength region ranging from the near-UV to the mid-infrared. This range includes the near-infrared (NIR) region where tissue transmissivity peaks. In addition, nanoshells offer other advantages over conventional organic dye imaging agents, including improved optical properties and reduced susceptibility to chemical/thermal denaturation. Furthermore, the same conjugation protocols used to bind biomolecules to gold colloid are easily modified for nanoshells. We first review the synthesis of gold nanoshells and illustrate how the core/shell ratio and overall size of a nanoshell influences its scattering and absorption properties. We then describe several examples of nanoshell-based diagnostic and therapeutic approaches including the development of nanoshell bioconjugates for molecular imaging, the use of scattering nanoshells as contrast agents for optical coherence tomography (OCT), and the use of absorbing nanoshells in NIR thermal therapy of tumors.
Currently, separate diagnostic and therapeutic modalities are required for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. In many cases, the present standard of care requires invasive surgical procedures and/or other treatments associated with significant side effect profiles, high cost, and poor clinical outcome. A single technology with dual diagnostic/therapeutic capabilities would potentially yield significant savings in the time and cost associated with diagnosing and treating many cancers. In this paper, we discuss gold nanoshell bioconjugates and their role in the development of an integrated cancer imaging and therapy application. Nanoshells are a novel class of nanomaterials that have unique properties including continuous and broad wavelength tunability, far greater scattering and absorption coefficients, increased chemical stability, and improved biocompatibility. Here, we describe the development of an integrated cancer imaging and therapy application using near-infrared (NIR) gold nanoshell bioconjugates.