Recently, fullerene and fullerene derivatives owning to their highly enriched physical and chemical properties have been widely explored for applications in many different fields including biomedicine. In this study, iron oxide nanoparticles (IONPs) were decorated onto the surface of fullerene (C60), and then PEGylation was performed to improve the solubility and biocompatibility of C60-IONP, obtaining a multi-functional C60-IONP-PEG nanocomposite with strong superparamagnetism and powerful photodynamic therapy capacity. Hematoporphyrin monomethyl ether (HMME), a new photodynamic anti-cancer drug, was conjugated to C60-IONP-PEG, forming a C60-IONP-PEG/HMME drug delivery system, which demonstrated an excellent magnetic targeting ability in cancer therapy. Compared with free HMME, remarkably enhanced photodynamic cancer cell killing effect using C60-IONP-PEG/HMME was realized not only in a cultured B16-F10 cells invitro but also in an invivo murine tumor model due to 23-fold higher HMME uptake of tumor and strong photodynamic activity of C60-IONP-PEG. Moreover, C60-IONP-PEG could be further used as a T2-contrast agent for invivo magnetic resonance imaging. Our work showed C60-IONP-PEG/HMME had a great potential for cancer theranostic applications. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
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