Magnetic Reactive Oxygen Species Nanoreactor for Switchable Magnetic Resonance Imaging Guided Cancer Therapy Based on pH-Sensitive Fe5C2@Fe3O4 Nanoparticles

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are crucial molecules in cancer therapy. Unfortunately, the therapeutic efficiency of ROS is unsatisfactory in clinic, primarily due to their rigorous production conditions. By taking advantage of the intrinsic acidity and overproduction of H2O2 in the tumor environment, we have reported an ROS nanoreactor based on core–shell-structured iron carbide (Fe5C2@Fe3O4) nanoparticles (NPs) through the catalysis of the Fenton reaction. These NPs are able to release ferrous ions in acidic environments to disproportionate H2O2 into OH radicals, which effectively inhibits the proliferation of tumor cells both in vitro and in vivo. The high magnetization of Fe5C2@Fe3O4 NPs is favorable for both magnetic targeting and T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Ionization of these NPs simultaneously decreases the T2 signal and enhances the T1 signal in MRI, and this T2/T1 switching process provides the visualization of ferrous ions release and ROS generation for the supervision of tumor curing. These Fe5C2@Fe3O4 NPs show great potential in endogenous environment-excited cancer therapy with high efficiency and tumor specificity and can be guided further by MRI.