Theranostics 2022; 12(1):434-458. doi:10.7150/thno.67300 This issue


Recent advances in nanomedicines for photodynamic therapy (PDT)-driven cancer immunotherapy

Bin Ji1,2, Minjie Wei1✉, Bin Yang1,2✉

1. School of Pharmacy, China Medical University, Shenyang, Liaoning 110122, China.
2. The First Affiliated Hospital, China Medical University, Shenyang, Liaoning 110001, China.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Ji B, Wei M, Yang B. Recent advances in nanomedicines for photodynamic therapy (PDT)-driven cancer immunotherapy. Theranostics 2022; 12(1):434-458. doi:10.7150/thno.67300. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Cancer immunotherapy has made tremendous clinical progress in advanced-stage malignancies. However, patients with various tumors exhibit a low response rate to immunotherapy because of a powerful immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME) and insufficient immunogenicity of tumors. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) can not only directly kill tumor cells, but also elicit immunogenic cell death (ICD), providing antitumor immunity. Unfortunately, limitations from the inherent nature and complex TME significantly reduce the efficiency of PDT. Recently, smart nanomedicine-based strategies could subtly modulate the pharmacokinetics of therapeutic compounds and the TME to optimize both PDT and immunotherapy, resulting in an improved antitumor effect. Here, the emerging nanomedicines for PDT-driven cancer immunotherapy are reviewed, including hypoxia-reversed nanomedicines, nanosized metal-organic frameworks, and subcellular targeted nanoparticles (NPs). Moreover, we highlight the synergistic nanotherapeutics used to amplify immune responses combined with immunotherapy against tumors. Lastly, the challenges and future expectations in the field of PDT-driven cancer immunotherapy are discussed.

Keywords: cancer immunotherapy, immune response, photodynamic therapy, emerging nanomedicines, synergistic nanotherapeutics