Our paper was accepted by Chemical Society Review!
Bioorthogonal chemistry is a powerful tool to site-specifically activate drugs in living systems. Bioorthogonal reactions between a pair of biologically reactive groups can rapidly and specifically take place in a mild physiological milieu without perturbing inherent biochemical processes. Attributed to their high selectivity and efficiency, bioorthogonal reactions can significantly decrease background signals in bioimaging. Compared with metal-catalyzed bioorthogonal click reactions, metal-free click reactions are more biocompatible without the metal catalyst-induced cytotoxicity. Although a great number of bioorthogonal chemistry-based strategies have been reported for cancer theranostics, a comprehensive review is scarce to highlight the advantages of these strategies. In this review, recent progress in cancer theranostics guided by metal-free bioorthogonal click chemistry will be depicted in detail. The elaborate design as well as the advantages of bioorthogonal chemistry in tumor theranostics are summarized and future prospects in this emerging field are emphasized.