The diagnosis and treatment of hepatocarcinoma (HCC) is believed to be improved due to the development of specific targeting probes by molecular imaging methods. GPC3, which is a hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)-specific tumor marker, anchors at most HCC cells. To target this cell membrane protein, we developed a novel nanoparticle by conjugating WS2-Ga3+-PEG and a short peptide with favorable specificity and affinity to the GPC3 protein.

In in vitro assay, several physical properties of the novel probe were evaluated. In in vivo assay, MRI, photoacoustic imaging and photothermal therapy were performed in the subcutaneous HepG2-bearing mice with the novel probe.

The effect of imaging and photothermal therapy was significant. We revealed that the novel nanosheet WS2-Ga3+-PEG-peptide is promising to detect and treat HCC-expressing GPC3.