The use of photothermal agents (PTAs) in cancer photothermal therapy (PTT) has shown promising results in clinical studies. The rapid degradation of PTAs may address safety concerns but usually limits the photothermal stability required for efficacious treatment. Conversely, PTAs with high photothermal stability usually degrade slowly. The solutions that address the balance between the high photothermal stability and rapid degradation of PTAs are rare. Here, we report that the inherent Cu 2+-capturing ability of black phosphorus (BP) can accelerate the degradation of BP, while also enhancing photothermal stability. The incorporation of Cu 2+ into BP@Cu nanostructures further enables chemodynamic therapy (CDT)-enhanced PTT. Moreover, by employing 64Cu 2+, positron emission tomography (PET) imaging can be achieved for in vivo real-time and quantitative tracking. Therefore, our study not only introduces an “ideal” PTA that bypasses the limitations of PTAs, but also provides the proof-of-concept application of BP-based materials in PET-guided, CDT-enhanced combination cancer therapy.
A balance between high stability and rapid degradation is required for effective photothermal anti-cancer agents. Here, the authors use Cu 2+ to accelerate the degradation of black phosphorus nanosheets while enhancing its photothermal ability and apply this material for PET-guided, CDT-enhanced combination cancer therapy in mice.