Theranostics 2020; 10(10):4557-4588. doi:10.7150/thno.38069 This issue


Stimuli-responsive nanocarriers for drug delivery, tumor imaging, therapy and theranostics

Peng Mi

Department of Radiology, Center for Medical Imaging, and State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy and Cancer Center, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, No.17 South Renmin Road, Chengdu, 610041, China

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Mi P. Stimuli-responsive nanocarriers for drug delivery, tumor imaging, therapy and theranostics. Theranostics 2020; 10(10):4557-4588. doi:10.7150/thno.38069. Available from

File import instruction


Graphic abstract

In recent years, much progress has been motivated in stimuli-responsive nanocarriers, which could response to the intrinsic physicochemical and pathological factors in diseased regions to increase the specificity of drug delivery. Currently, numerous nanocarriers have been engineered with physicochemical changes in responding to external stimuli, such as ultrasound, thermal, light and magnetic field, as well as internal stimuli, including pH, redox potential, hypoxia and enzyme, etc. Nanocarriers could respond to stimuli in tumor microenvironments or inside cancer cells for on-demanded drug delivery and accumulation, controlled drug release, activation of bioactive compounds, probes and targeting ligands, as well as size, charge and conformation conversion, etc., leading to sensing and signaling, overcoming multidrug resistance, accurate diagnosis and precision therapy. This review has summarized the general strategies of developing stimuli-responsive nanocarriers and recent advances, presented their applications in drug delivery, tumor imaging, therapy and theranostics, illustrated the progress of clinical translation and made prospects.

Keywords: nanoparticles, stimuli-responsive, tumor microenvironment, diagnosis, theranostics, clinical translation