Previously, gold nanoshells were shown to be able to effectively convert photon energy to heat, leading to hyperthermia and suppression of tumor growths in mice. Herein, we show that in addition to the nanomaterial-mediated photothermal effects (NmPTT), gold nanoshells (including, nanocages, nanorod-in-shell and nanoparticle-in-shell) not only are able to absorb NIR light, but can also emit fluorescence, sensitize formation of singlet oxygen and exert nanomaterial-mediated photodynamic therapeutic (NmPDT) complete destruction of solid tumors in mice. The modes of NmPDT and NmPTT can be controlled and switched from one to the other by changing the excitation wavelength. In the invitro experiments, gold nanocages and nanorod-in-shell show larger percentage of cellular deaths originating from NmPDT along with the minor fraction of NmPTT effects. In contrast, nanoparticle-in-shell exhibits larger fraction of NmPTT-induced cellular deaths together with minor fraction of NmPDT-induced apoptosis. Fluorescence emission spectra and DPBF quenching studies confirm the generation of singlet O2 upon NIR photoirradiation. Both NmPDT and NmPTT effects were confirmed by measurements of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and subsequent sodium azide quenching, heat shock protein expression (HSP 70), singlet oxygen sensor green (SOSG) sensing, changes in mitochondria membrane potential and apoptosis in the cellular experiments. In vivo experiments further demonstrate that upon irradiation at 980nm under ultra-low doses (~150mW/cm2), gold nanocages mostly exert NmPDT effect to effectively suppress the B16F0 melanoma tumor growth. The combination of NmPDT and NmPTT effects on destruction of solid tumors is far better than pure NmPTT effect by 808nm irradiation and also doxorubicin. Overall, our study demonstrates that gold nanoshells can serve as excellent multi-functional theranostic agents (fluorescence imaging+NmPDT+NmPTT) upon single photon NIR light excitation under ultra-low laser doses. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.