Poly(alkyl cyanoacrylate) (PACA) nanoparticles have shown promise as drug carriers both to solid tumors and across the blood–brain barrier. Efficient drug delivery requires both high cellular uptake of the nanoparticles and release of the drug from the nanoparticles. Release of hydrophobic drugs from PACA nanoparticles is primarily governed by nanoparticle degradation, and this process has been poorly studied at the cellular level. Here we use the hydrophobic model drug Nile Red 668 (NR668) to investigate intracellular degradation of PACA nanoparticles by measuring changes in NR668 fluorescence emission and lifetime, as the spectral properties of NR668 depend on the hydrophobicity of the dye environment. We also assess the potential of poly(butyl cyanoacrylate) (PBCA) and poly(octyl cyanoacrylate) (POCA) nanoparticles for intracellular drug delivery in the prostate cancer cell line PC3 and rat brain endothelial cell line RBE4 and the role of endocytosis pathways in PACA nanoparticle uptake in those cell lines.