The use of different nanocarriers for delivering hydrophobic pharmaceutical agents to tumor sites has garnered major attention. Despite the merits of these nanocarriers, further studies are needed to improve their drug loading capacities (which are typically <10%) and reduce their potential systemic toxicity. Therefore, the development of alternative self-carried nanodrug delivery strategies without using inert carriers is highly desirable. In this study, we developed a self-carried curcumin (Cur) nanodrug for highly effective cancer therapy in vitro and in vivo with real-time monitoring of drug release. With a biocompatible C18PMH-PEG functionalization, the Cur nanoparticles (NPs) showed excellent dispersibility and outstanding stability in physiological environments with drug loading capacities >78 wt%. Both confocal microscopy and flow cytometry confirmed the cellular fluorescence "OFF-ON" activation and real-time monitoring of the Cur molecule release. In vitro and in vivo experiments clearly show that the therapeutic efficacy of the PEGylated Cur NPs is considerably better than that of free Cur. This self-carried strategy with real-time monitoring of drug release may open a new way for simultaneous cancer therapy and monitoring.