Novel catanionic lipid nanosystems (CLNs) incorporating curcumin (CCM) were developed, and improvements in pharmacokinetics and enhanced anti-lung cancer activity were observed. CCM was present in a lipid matrix surrounded by cationic, anionic and zwitterionic surfactants, forming the core-shell nanosystems. Compared with free CCM, the CCM-CLNs had much higher oral and intravenous bioavailabilities due to enhanced absorption and reduced clearance. The CCM-CLNs exhibited greater cytotoxicity in Lewis lung cancer (LLC) cells, which might have been due to increased antiproliferative, proapoptotic and anti-invasive activities and induction of cell cycle arrest. The CCM-CLNs increased the antitumor efficacy of CCM and decreased the tumor growth rate in tumor-bearing mice. This is the first report of induction of apoptosis in LLC cells by CCM through the PI3K/Akt/FoxO1/Bim signaling pathway. Catanionic lipid nanocarriers show promise for the therapeutic delivery of insoluble anti-tumor drugs.