Background: Laryngeal cancer is the second most common type of primary epithelial malignant tumor in the head and neck region, and the development of therapies that are more precise, efficient, and safe is necessary to preserve patient speech and swallowing functions as much as possible. Multi-modal imaging-guided photothermal therapy (PTT) can precisely delineate tumors, monitor the real-time accumulation of photothermal agents at the tumor site, accurately select the optimal region for irradiation, and predict the best time for laser treatment. Compared with exogeneous photothermal agents, endogenous melanin materials have better biosafety in vivo, in terms of native biocompatibility and biodegradability, as well as good near-infrared (NIR) absorbance. An NIR-II dye can be attached to melanin via a facile method, and applying a melanin-dye-based nanoprobe could be an excellent choice for the elimination of superficial laryngeal cancer while avoiding total laryngectomy.
Methods: In this work, a promising nanoprobe was constructed using a facile EDC/NHS strategy involving an NIR-II dye and melanin nanoparticles.
Results: The nanoprobe exhibited good water solubility, dispersibility, strong NIR-II fluorescence and photoacoustic (PA) signals, and higher photothermal performance. Cellular studies showed that the nanoprobe had low toxicity, excellent biocompatibility, and significantly enhanced imaging properties. After the nanoprobe was intravenously injected into Hep-2 laryngeal xenografts, superior dual-modal images were obtained at various time points, which revealed that the optimal photothermal treatment time was 8 h. Subsequently, PTT was carried out in vivo, and laryngeal tumors were completely eliminated after laser irradiation without any obvious side effects.
Conclusion: These results indicate the immense potential of nanoprobes for the NIR-II fluorescence/PA imaging-guided photothermal therapy of laryngeal cancer.

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