Phosphorescent metal complexes as theranostic anticancer agents: combining imaging and therapy in a single molecule
Phosphorescent metal complexes are a new kind of multifunctional antitumor compounds that can integrate imaging and antitumor functions in a single molecule. In this minireview, we summarize the recent research progress in this field, concentrating on the theranostic applications of phosphorescent iridium(III), ruthenium(II) and rhenium(I) complexes. The molecular design that affords these complexes with tumour- or subcellular organelle-targeting properties is elucidated. The potential of these complexes to induce and monitor the dynamic behavior of subcellular organelles and the changes in microenvironment during the process of therapy is demonstrated. Moreover, the potential and advantages of applying new technologies, such as super-resolution imaging and phosphorescence lifetime imaging, are also described. Finally, the challenges faced in the development of novel theranostic metallo-anticancer complexes for possible clinical translation are proposed.