V(III) instead of commonly used Fe(III) provided a rich tris-catechol-metal coordination at pH 7.4, which is important for slow drug release at physiological pH. Bovine serum albumin (BSA) functionalized with catechol-containing dopamine (D) and cross-linked using tris-catechol-V(III) coordination yielded pH-responsive compact D-BSA NPs (253 nm). However, conversion to bis- and/or mono-catechol-V(III) complexes in an acidic medium resulted in degradation of NPs and rapid release of doxorubicin (DOX). It was shown that D-BSA NPs entered cancerous MCF-7 cells (66%) more efficiently than non-cancerous HEK293T (33%) in 3 h. Also, DOX-loaded NPs reduced cell viability of MCF-7 by 75% and induced apoptosis in a majority of cells after 24 h. Biodegradability and lack of hemolytic activity were shown in vitro, whereas a lack of toxicity was shown in histological sections of zebrafish. Furthermore, 30% of circulating tumor cells in vasculature in 24 h were killed by DOX-loaded NPs shown with the zebrafish CTC xenograft model.