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Many recently developed drugs encounter delivery issues due to their high lipophilicity and poor aqueous solubility. This study reports the development of a novel hybrid nanocarrier known as polymer-oil nanostructured carrier (PONC), in which highly lipophilic drugs such as all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) and indomethacin pre-solubilized in oil phase were dispersed in a polymeric matrix of poly(d,l-lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA). In comparison to the standard PLGA only nanoparticles, PONC substantially increased the encapsulation efficiency of ATRA and indomethacin by up to 259% and 124%, respectively. Differential scanning calorimetry analysis revealed that the inclusion of oil introduced nanostructure into the polymeric matrix of the carrier. This feature facilitated more uniform distribution of the drug molecules which subsequently led to improved drug release kinetics with significantly reduced burst release effects (p < 0.05). PONC was lyophilizable, remained physically stable when stored at low temperatures, and demonstrated low non-specific carrier toxicity. Delivery of ATRA by PONC also significantly improved its anticancer activity over the standard PLGA only nanoparticles (p < 0.05). Our findings have therefore validated a promising delivery system that integrates the advantages of lipid-based (e.g. efficient encapsulation of highly lipophilic drugs) and polymeric colloidal carriers (e.g. uniform size, good stability), plus potential therapeutic benefits for delivery of poorly water-soluble anticancer drugs like ATRA.