Gold nanorods (GNRs) are of great interest in cancer therapy given their ability to ablate tumor cells using deep tissue-penetrating near-infrared light. GNRs coated with tumor-specific moieties have the potential to target tumor tissue to minimize damage to normal tissue. However, perfect targeting is difficult to achieve given that nanoparticles could be broadly dispersed inside the body. Moreover, interaction between targeting groups and biological molecules could lower targeting abilities, resulting in off-target accumulation which might produce nanotoxicity. Here we introduce GNR-encapsulated microcubes (GNR@MCs) that can be utilized as implantable photothermal agents. GNR@MCs are created by encapsulating GNRs in polymeric networks via stop flow lithography (SFL), a one-phase synthesis technique which allows for creation of surfactant-free, uniform particles, and injection of GNR@MCs into the body after a simple rinse step. GNRs are highly packed and firmly encapsulated inside MCs, and entrapped GNRs exhibit optical properties comparable to that of unbound GNRs and photothermal efficiency (58%) in line with that of nano-sized agents (51–95%). Photothermal ablation in murine models is achieved using GNR@MCs stably implanted into the tumor tissue, which suggests that GNR@MCs can be a safe and effective platform for cancer therapy.
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