Previously, a large volume of papers reports that gold nanorods (Au NRs) are able to effectively kill cancer cells upon high laser doses (usually 808 nm, 1-48 W/cm2) irradiation, leading to hyperthermia-induced destruction of cancer cells, i.e, photothermal therapy (PTT) effects. Combination of Au NRs-mediated PTT and organic photosensitizers-mediated photodynamic therapy (PDT) were also reported to achieve synergistic PTT and PDT effects on killing cancer cells. Herein, we demonstrate for the first time that Au NRs alone can sensitize formation of singlet oxygen (1O2) and exert dramatic PDT effects on complete destrcution of tumors in mice under very low LED/laser doses of single photon NIR (915 nm, <130 mW/cm2) light excitation. By changing the NIR light excitation wavelengths, Au NRs-mediated phototherapeutic effects can be switched from PDT to PTT or combination of both. Both PDT and PTT effects were confirmed by measurements of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and heat shock protein (HSP 70), singlet oxygen sensor green (SOSG) sensing, and sodium azide quenching in cellular experiments. In vivo mice experiments further show that the PDT effect via irradiation of Au NRs by 915 nm can destruct the B16F0 melanoma tumor in mice far more effectively than doxorubicin (a clinically used anti-cancer drug) as well as the PTT effect (via irradiation of Au NRs by 780 nm light). In addition, we show that Au NRs can emit single photon-induced fluorescence to illustrate their in vivo locations/distribution. Gold nanorods (Au NRs)-mediated photodynamic therapy effects on destruction of tumors were demonstrated upon single photon NIR light excitation without additional organic photosensitizers, and simultaneously act as fluorescent markers. © 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.