Theranostic applications require coupling of diagnosis and therapy, a high degree of specificity and adaptability to delivery methods compatible with clinical practice. The tunable physical and biological effects of selective targeting and activation of plasmonic nanobubbles (PNB) were studied in a heterogeneous biological microenvironment of prostate cancer and stromal cells. All cells were targeted with conjugates of gold nanoparticles (NPs) through an antibody-receptor-endocytosis-nanocluster mechanism that produced NP clusters. The simultaneous pulsed optical activation of intracellular NP clusters at several wavelengths resulted in higher optical contrast and therapeutic selectivity of PNBs compared with those of gold NPs alone. The developed mechanism was termed “rainbow plasmonic nanobubbles.” The cellular effect of rainbow PNBs was tuned in situ in target cells, thus supporting a theranostic algorithm of prostate cancer cell detection and follow-up guided destruction without damage to collateral cells. The specificity and tunability of PNBs is promising for theranostic applications and we discuss a fiber optic platform that will capitalize on these features to bring theranostic tools to the clinic
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