NIR-responsive reversible phase transition of supramolecular hydrogels for tumor treatment†
Locally administrable drugs with controllable release on external cues hold great promise for antitumor therapy. Here, we report an injectable, supramolecular hydrogel (SHG), where the drug release can be controllably driven by near infrared (NIR) irradiation. The SHGs are formed by electrostatic interactions with LAPONITE® (XLG), in which upconverting nanoparticles (UCNPs) modified with α-cyclodextrin (α-CD) are used as the core, and azobenzene quaternary ammonium salts (E-azo) are further assembled through host–guest interactions. The hydrogel demonstrates reversible phase transition between gel and sol states and photothermal conversion capability. In detailed in vitro and vivo trials, drug-loaded SHGs successfully suppressed invasion by cancer cells. Phase transitions that are regulated by NIR light and promote drug release using photothermal effects, highlighting the considerable potential of supramolecular hydrogels in anticancer therapies, especially for treatments requiring long-term, on-demand drug supply in clinics.