New insights about nanomaterials’ biodistribution revealed their ability to achieve tumor accumulation by taking advantage from the dynamic vents occurring in tumor’s vasculature. This paradigm-shift emphasizes the importance of extending nanomaterials’ blood circulation time to enhance their tumor uptake. The classic strategy to improve nanomaterials’ stability during circulation relies on their functionalization with poly(ethylene glycol). However, recent reports have been showing that PEGylated nanomaterials can suffer from the accelerated blood clearance phenomenon, emphasizing the importance of developing novel coatings for functionalizing the nanomaterials. To address this limitation, the modification of natural carriers’ surface to enhance their stability appears to be a promising strategy. Herein, sulfobetaine methacrylate (SBMA)-functionalized bovine serum albumin (BSA) was synthesized for the first time to investigate the capacity of this modification to improve the resulting nanoparticles’ physicochemical properties, colloidal stability and in vitro performance. This novel polymer was then employed in the formulation of nanoparticles loaded with IR780 for application in breast cancer phototherapy (IR/SBMA-BSA NPs). When compared to their non-functionalized equivalents, the IR/SBMA-BSA NPs presented a neutral surface charge and a higher stability in biologically relevant media. Due to these features, the IR/SBMA-BSA NPs could achieve a 1.9-fold greater uptake by breast cancer cells than IR/BSA NPs. Furthermore, the IR/SBMA-BSA NPs were cytocompatible towards normal cells and reduced breast cancer cells’ viability up to 42 %. The phototherapy mediated by IR/SBMA-BSA NPs could further decrease cancer cells’ viability to about 12 %. Overall, the IR/SBMA-BSA NPs have enhanced features that propel their application in breast cancer phototherapy.Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.