We investigated doxorubicin (DOX)-loaded nanospheres (NS) formulated using a biodegradable polymer, poly(D,L-lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA), for targeted chemotherapy of brain tumours. A nonionic surfactant, polysorbate 80 (P80), was used to modify the surfaces of PLGA NS to improve cellular drug delivery. DOX-loaded PLGA NS were formulated by emulsion solvent diffusion and characterised for DOX encapsulation and in vitro release. The effectiveness of DOX-loaded P80-PLGA NS was investigated in A172 human glioblastoma cells. The drug release pattern was dependent on the pH of the medium. Quantitatively, the cellular uptake of NS was significantly increased by P80 surface modification compared with unmodified NS. Confocal laser scanning microscopy studies revealed that DOX was released from NS following accumulation in the cell nuclei. DOX-loaded P80-PLGA NS could significantly inhibit both DOX efflux from the cells and cell proliferation compared with a DOX solution.