Graphene as cancer theranostic tool: Progress and future challenges

Marco Orecchioni, Roberto Cabizza, Alberto Bianco, Lucia Gemma Delogu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Nowadays cancer remains one of the main causes of death in the world. Current diagnostic techniques need to be improved to provide earlier diagnosis and treatment. Traditional therapy approaches to cancer are limited by lack of specificity and systemic toxicity. In this scenario nanomaterials could be good allies to give more specific cancer treatment effectively reducing undesired side effects and giving at the same time accurate diagnosis and successful therapy. In this context, thanks to its unique physical and chemical properties, graphene, graphene oxide (GO) and reduced graphene (rGO) have recently attracted tremendous interest in biomedicine including cancer therapy. Herein we analyzed all studies presented in literature related to cancer fight using graphene and graphene-based conjugates. In this context, we aimed at the full picture of the state of the art providing new inputs for future strategies in the cancer theranostic by using of graphene. We found an impressive increasing interest in the material for cancer therapy and/or diagnosis. The majority of the works (73%) have been carried out on drug and gene delivery applications, following by photothermal therapy (32%), imaging (31%) and photodynamic therapy (10%). A 27% of the studies focused on theranostic applications. Part of the works here discussed contribute to the growth of the theranostic field covering the use of imaging (i.e. ultrasonography, positron electron tomography, and fluorescent imaging) combined to one or more therapeutic modalities. We found that the use of graphene in cancer theranostics is still in an early but rapidly growing stage of investigation. Any technology based on nanomaterials can significantly enhance their possibility to became the real revolution in medicine if combines diagnosis and therapy at the same time. We performed a comprehensive summary of the latest progress of graphene cancer fight and highlighted the future challenges and the innovative possible theranostic applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)710-723
Number of pages14
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2015


  • Cancer
  • Carbon materials
  • Graphene
  • Nanomedicine
  • Theranostics
  • Therapy
  • Tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics (miscellaneous)


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