Nanozyme for tumor therapy: Surface modification matters

The effects of surface modification on the antitumor activity of nanozymes are summarized in three ways: (1) directly or indirectly affecting the catalytic activity of nanozymes; (2) regulating the biodistribution of nanozymes; (3) alternating the intracellular fate of nanozymes.


As the next generation of artificial enzymes, nanozymes have shown unique properties compared to its natural counterparts, such as stability in harsh environment, low cost, and ease of production and modification, paving the way for its biomedical applications. Among them, tumor catalytic therapy mediated by the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) has made great progress mainly from the peroxidase-like activity of nanozymes. Fe3O4 nanozymes, the earliest type of nanomaterial discovered to possess peroxidase-like activity, has consequently received wide attention for tumor therapy due to its ROS generation ability and tumor cell killing ability. However, inconsistent results of cytotoxicity were observed between different reports, and some even showed the scavenging of ROS in some cases. By collectively studying these inconsistent outcomes, we raise the question whether surface modification of Fe3O4 nanozymes, either through affecting peroxidase activity or by affecting the biodistribution and intracellular fate, play an important role in its therapeutic effects. This review will go over the fundamental catalytic mechanisms of Fe3O4 nanozymes and recent advances in tumor catalytic therapy, and discuss the importance of surface modification. Employing Fe3O4 nanozymes as an example, we hope to provide an outlook on the improvement of nanozyme-based antitumor activity.

Author list:

Guoheng Tang, Jiuyang He, Juewen Liu, Xiyun Yan*, Kelong Fan*

How to cite:

G. Tang, J. He, J. Liu, X. Yan, K. Fan, Exploration 2021, 1, 75-89.