We describe and explore the capability of a photothermal (PT) assay with modified schematics for highly sensitive detection of individual cell response to antitumor drug impact in vitro. Specifically, we used the nonlinear differential PT test to measure distinctive changes of specific PT parameters after exposure of KB3 carcinoma cells to the antitumor drug vinblastine in the broad concentration range of . Verification of the PT assay was performed by comparison with multidrug-resistant cells and comparison with conventional assays evaluating cell viability, cytochrome c release, apoptosis induction, and cell size. We demonstrate that this system is capable of detecting drug-induced signals at a concentration threshold sensitivity at least seven orders of magnitude better than existing assays. We anticipate that this technique may serve as a convenient and rapid analytical tool to evaluate the presence of intracellular drug, with applications in high throughput screening assays and for studying drug uptake and distribution in more complex biological or clinical samples.