Background: Nanoclusters are made of a few to tens of atoms with a size below 2 nm. Compared with nanoparticles, they exhibited excellent properties, such as tunable fluorescence, ease of conjugation, high quantum yield and biocompatibility, which are highly desired in the development of cancer nanotheranostics. Hence, the metallic nanoclusters have emerged as a newcomer in cancer nanomedicines. This review aims to summarize recently developed approaches to preparing metallic nanoclusters, highlight their applications in cancer theranostics, and provide a brief outlook for the future developments of nanoclusters in nanomedicine.
Method: We carried out a thorough literature search using online databases. The search was focused on a centered question. Irrelevant articles were excluded after further examination and directly relevant articles were included. The relevant articles were classified by the subjects and the information from these articles was synthesized.
Results: One hundred and forty-three articles were included in this review. About eighty articles outlined the development in the synthetic methods of nanoclusters. The synthesis approaches include chemical reduction, photoreduction and so on. The progress in the application of gold and silver nanoclusters to cancer theranostics was described in fifteen and eight articles, respectively. The rest articles were about the advancements in the use of other metal nanoclusters and nanocluster nanocomposites as cancer theranostic agents.
Conclusion: This review summarizes the synthesis and use of metallic nanoclusters or their nanocomposites as cancer theranostic agents. It confirms their importance, advantages and potentials in serving as a new generation of cancer theranostics in clinics.