Safe nanotheranostics: Clinically relevant nano-platform for solid tumor imaging and near‐infrared light mediated cancer therapy

4 min readDec 16, 2020


Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s interview with Bio Patrika hosting “Vigyan Patrika”, a series of author interviews. Dr. Prasad is currently working as an Institute Postdoctoral Fellow and Nanomedicine Investigator in the lab of Prof. Rohit Srivastava at the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai Powai, India. Dr. Prasad has published a paper entitled “Liposomal nanotheranostics for multimode targeted in vivo bioimaging and near‐infrared light mediated cancer therapy” as a first author in Communications Biology (2020) published by Nature and has filed an Indian Patent entitled “Fluorescent gold nanorods and method of preparation thereof” that is granted recently IN350710.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad has explained that the conventional diagnosis and treatment strategies of cancer are being practiced commonly even today. During the interview, Dr. Prasad has emphasized various side-effects of conventional contrast and therapeutic agents that include poor contrast and image resolution, quick clearance, non-specific targeting and poor tumor accumulation, heavy and multiple-dose requirements, uncontrolled exposure of high electromagnetic radiations, whole-body scans, etc. Consequently, integrated nanosized imaging and therapeutic probes named Nanotheranostics have been conceptualized recently due to their better efficiency and negligible side-effects. Moreover, such Nanotheranostics demonstrate site-selective targeting and solid tumor regression with minimum dose administration exhibiting their easy clinical translational possibilities.

How would you explain your paper’s key results to the non-scientific community?

Even today, it is hard to replace traditional diagnostics and treatment strategies of cancer despite of their expensive and time-consuming process. Still, non-specific and targeting ability, low image resolution, high doses and high power of electromagnetic radiation exposure, rapid clearance, nephrotoxicity, etc are other limitations of these contrast agents. To overcome these limitations, Nanotheranostics has been conceptualized that resolve the critical concerns of heavy and multiple doses of imaging and therapeutic agents and their time-consuming process. Moreover, nano-diagnostics and therapeutic probes have been recognized as a clinical ‘weapon’ for localized cancer nanomedicine. In recent years, numerous examples of functional nanohybrids for multimode imaging and therapeutics have been studied, but their promising observations for pre-clinical and clinical studies are slow. However, our published study explains a clinical relevant nanotheranostics “imaging and therapy by a single system” agent. We have also reported the imaging-guided tumor regression, importance of combination therapies, and localized tumor diagnosis with deep visualization. Specifically, we have engineered multi-contrast agents (radiocontrast gold nanoparticle and red emissive quantum dots) integrated liposomal nanohybrids as safe nanotheranostics for cancer nanomedicine application.

Figure 1. Schematic representation of designed liposomal nanotheranostic agent, microscopic image, cellular uptake image and close view of nanotheranostics in the laboratory.

What are the possible consequences of these findings for your research area?

Globally, among all types of cancer, breast cancer has gained much attention for early-stage diagnosis and treatment. Interestingly, a correlation of the steady rise in diagnosis and treatment costs with cancer-related deaths has been widely noticed. Our research proposes an image-guided combination therapeutic intercession for solid tumor imaging and ablation followed by external near infrared light irradiation. We have developed highly biocompatible (about 95%) liposomal based multifunctional nanomedicine where single dose is promising enough to eradicate the 100 mm 3tumor within few days due to the synergistic effect of generated heat and triggered release of anticancer drug during external light exposure as compared to standalone chemotherapy and phototherapy. So far, various nanosized agents exclusively liposomes based have been studied for clinical studies. Therefore, our designed liposomal nanotheranostics have a better possibility of translatable to clinics soon.

“[…] We propose a multimode-image guided combination therapy of solid tumor using biodegradable safe nanotheranostics agent.”

What was the exciting moment (eureka moment) during your research?

The whole research project was exciting, but the imagination of engineering a functional nanotheranostics for image guided combination therapy of cancer was challenging for me. However, in vivo studies with our designed nanomedicine have shown significant tumor reduction supporting the clinical translational ability. This moment excited me to think more and more about engineering safe theranostic agents for cancer nanomedicine applications.

What do you hope to do next?

We have promising pre-clinical data that gave us hope to try the designed nanotheranostics for further clinical studies. Now, we are looking to translate our designed nanomedicine for clinical trials.

Where do you seek scientific inspiration?

My visit to a cancer hospital in North India and the worst situation of cancer patients, and lack of early stage diagnosis and treatment made me clear to work in cancer diagnosis and therapeutics.

How do you intend to help Indian science improve?

Indian science has a good combination of excellent scientists and technologies. However, we are far from establishing a world-class facility for early-stage diagnosis and cancer treatment and translating our lab work to further clinical trials. Additionally, we need to focus on collaborative research projects. That’s how I am working in a team where radiologists, oncologists, biomedical engineers, technologists, material scientists and biologists are contributing towards better pre-clinical and clinical research.


Prasad R, Jain N, Gorain M, Chauhan D S, Yadav A S, Conde J, Thakor A S, Kundu G, Srivastava R. Liposomal nanotheranostics for multimode targeted in vivo bioimaging and near‐infrared light mediated cancer therapy. Commun Biol, 2020, 3, 284.

Indian Patent IN350710 entitled “Fluorescent gold nanorods and method of preparation thereof.” Application number 201821022488.


Learn more about Prof. Rohit Srivastava lab research interests here:

Originally published at on December 16, 2020.




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