Indocyanine green delivery systems for tumour detection and treatments

Elena P. Porcu, Andrea Salis, Elisabetta Gavini, Giovanna Rassu, Marcello Maestri, Paolo Giunchedi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Indocyanine green (ICG) is a cyanine compound that displays fluorescent properties in the near infrared region. This dye is employed for numerous indications but nowadays its major application field regards tumour diagnosis and treatments. Optical imaging by near infrared fluorescence provides news opportunities for oncologic surgery. The imaging of ICG can be useful for intraoperative identification of several solid tumours and metastases, and sentinel lymph node detection. In addition, ICG can be used as an agent for the destruction of malignant tissue, by virtue of the production of reactive oxygen species and/or induction of a hyperthermia effect under irradiation. Nevertheless, ICG shows several drawbacks, which limit its clinical application. Several formulative strategies have been studied to overcome these problems. The rationale of the development of ICG containing drug delivery systems is to enhance the in vivo stability and biodistribution profile of this dye, allowing tumour accumulation and resulting in better efficacy. In this review, ICG containing nano-sized carriers are classified based on their chemical composition and structure. In addition to nanosystems, different formulations including hydrogel, microsystems and others loaded with ICG will be illustrated. In particular, this report describes the preparation, in vitro characterization and in vivo application of ICG platforms for cancer imaging and treatment. The promising results of all systems confirm their clinical utility but further studies are required prior to evaluating the formulations in human trials.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiotechnology Advances
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Nov 18 2015


  • Delivery system
  • Imaging
  • Indocyanine green
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Photothermal therapy
  • Tumour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology


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