Translatable NanoTheranostics (TNT)

The mission of this research line is to unlock the intriguing features of noble metal nanotheranostics for the introduction of innovative, efficient and non-invasive treatments of solid neoplasms to clinics.The major concern that has hampered the clinical translation of noble metal nanoparticles is related to the question of their persistence in organisms after the designed action. Due to this dilemma, all the appealing physiochemical properties of noble metal nanomaterials are still on the bench-side.We have addressed this issue by the ultrasmall-in-nano approach through the design of inorganic disassembling nano-architectures (passion fruit-like nano-architectures, NAs). NAs are composed by hollow silica nanocapsules comprising ultrasmall metal nanoparticles embedded in a functional polymeric matrix. NAs produced within this approach jointly combine most of the promising behaviors of noble metal nanostructures for healthcare with biodegradation to renal clearable building blocks, avoiding the issue of metal persistence. Due to their versatility, our team is assessing NAs employment in:

  • enhanced and localized chemo(radio)therapy
  • photoacoustic and ultrasound diagnostic
  • positron and X-ray computed tomography (PET and CT), and magnetic resonance imaging

Our efforts are mainly focused on the treatment of two aggressive neoplasms: the pancreatic and the head/neck cancers. As a side project, we are devoted to the development of novel nanorattle catalysts resulting from NAs calcination. The nanorattles are composed by “naked” metal nanoparticles comprised and protected by permeable silica nanocapsules. Our efforts are focused on hydrogen storage and employment and in automotive exhaust gas treatment.Typical TEM image of passion fruit like nano-architectures (NAs) (center) and their main features. Clockwise from top-left: scheme of the production for all-in-one nanoplatforms, biodegradation of NAs in cellular environment, in vitro drug delivery of endogenous GSH-triggered cisplatin prodrug, and PA imaging during degradation in phantoms.

Group Members

  • Valerio Voliani 
  • Domenico Cassano
  • Ana Katrina Mapanao
  • Melissa Santi
  • Ylea Vlamidis

TNT Page Image Group


Prof. Gang Zheng, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and TECHNA Institute (Toronto, Canada)
Prof. Hisatoshi Kobayashi, NIMS (Tsukuba, Japan)
Prof. Luca Menichetti, IFC-CNR (Pisa, Italy)
Prof. Paolo Decuzzi, IIT (Genoa, Italy)
Prof. Tiziano Bandiera, IIT (Genoa, Italy)
Dr. Rosalia Bertorelli, IIT (Genoa, Italy)
Prof. Silvia Giordani,University of Turin (Turin, Italy)
Dr. Marcus Halama, CorOne, s.r.o., (Košice, Slovakia)
Dr. Giuseppe Cirillo, Università della Calabria (Cosenza, Italy)


  • Naked nanoparticles comprised in silica nanocapsules: a versatile family of nanorattle catalysts

Salvador Pocoví-Martínez, Domenico Cassano, and Valerio Voliani; ACS Applied Nano Materials, 2018, DOI: 10.1021/acsanm.8b00247

  • Ultrasmall-in-nano approach: enabling the translation of metal nanomaterials to clinics

Domenico Cassano, Salvador Pocoví-Martínez, and Valerio Voliani; Bioconjugate Chemistry, 2018, 29 (1), 4-16,DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.7b00664. 

  • Passion fruit-like nano-architectures: a generalized synthesis route

Domenico Cassano, Jeremy David, Stefano Luin, and Valerio Voliani; Scientific Reports, 2017, 7, 43795, DOI: 10.1038/srep43795.

  • Biodegradable passion fruit-like nano-architectures as carriers for cisplatin prodrug

Domenico Cassano, Melissa Santi, Valentina Cappello, Stefano Luin, Giovanni Signore, and Valerio Voliani; Particle and Particle Systems Characterization, 2016, 33 (11), 818-824, DOI: 10.1002/ppsc.201600175. 

  • Biodegradable hollow silica nanospheres containing gold nanoparticle arrays

Domenico Cassano, Diego Rota Martir, Giovanni Signore, Vincenzo Piazza, and Valerio Voliani; Chemical Communications, 2015, 51, 9939-9941, DOI: 10.1039/C5CC02771C

Journal covers