We report the fabrication and characterization of thermally cross-linked superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (TCL-SPION) and their application to the dual imaging of cancer in vivo. Unlike dextrancoated cross-linked iron oxide nanoparticles, which are prepared by a chemical cross-linking method, TCLSPION are prepared by a simple, thermal cross-linking method using a Si-OH-containing copolymer. The copolymer, poly(3-(trimethoxysilyl)propyl methacrylate-r-PEG methyl ether methacrylate-r-N-acryloxysuccinimide), was synthesized by radical polymerization and used as a coating material for as-synthesized magnetite (Fe3O4) SPION. The polymer-coated SPION was further heated at 80 degrees C to induce cross-linking between the -Si(OH)(3) groups in the polymer chains, which finally generated TCL-SPION bearing a carboxyl group as a surface functional group. The particle size, surface charge, presence of polymer-coating layers, and the extent of thermal cross-linking were characterized and confirmed by various measurements, including dynamic light scattering, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. The carboxyl TCL-SPION was converted to amine-modified TCL-SPION and then finally to Cy5.5 dyeconjugated TCL-SPION for use in dual (magnetic resonance/optical) in vivo cancer imaging. When the Cy5.5 TCL-SPION was administered to Lewis lung carcinoma tumor allograft mice by intravenous injection, the tumor was unambiguously detected in T-2-weighted magnetic resonance images as a 68% signal drop as well as in optical fluorescence images within 4 h, indicating a high level of accumulation of the nanomagnets within the tumor site. In addition, ex vivo fluorescence images of the harvested tumor and other major organs further confirmed the highest accumulation of the Cy5.5 TCL-SPION within the tumor. It is noteworthy that, despite the fact that TCL-SPION does not bear any targeting ligands on its surface, it was highly effective for tumor detection in vivo by dual imaging.