The success of detecting cancer at early stages relies greatly on the sensitivity and specificity of in vivo molecular imaging.
Optical imaging with near infrared (NIR) luminescent molecular nanoprobes currently attracts much attention because of many
advantages of this imaging modality. It provides real time imaging with relatively inexpensive cost, produces images with high sensitivity
and spatial resolution, and avoids exposure to ionizing irradiation. Raman spectroscopy/microscopy imaging with surface enhanced
Raman scattering (SERS) nanoparticles allows scientists to detect biological events in living cells or organisms in real time and with high
sensitivity. The photoacoustic imaging has emerged as a hybrid of optical and ultrasound imaging for sensitive and quantitative tumor
detection. Given the recent advances in nanoscience and biomedicine, receptor-targeted NIR nanoprobes promise to improve the cancer
early detection with relatively high sensitivity and specificity. We summarize various targeted NIR nanoprobes and their potential
applications in cancer targeting and in vivo imaging and discuss the potential of multimodality imaging of NIR nanoprobes. With ongoing
efforts to enhance their targeting ability and endow more functions, NIR nanoprobes hold great promise for clinical translation.
Keywords: Near infrared, receptor, nanoparticles, optical fluorescence, cancer, early detection, raman imaging, photoacoustic imaging
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