Abstract Background Phase-change ultrasound contrast agents (PCCAs) offer a solution to the inherent limitations associated with using microbubbles for sonoporation; they are characterized by prolonged circulation lifetimes, and their nanometer-scale sizes may allow for passive accumulation in solid tumors. As a first step towards the goal of extravascular cell permeabilization, we aim to characterize the sonoporation potential of a low-boiling point formulation of PCCAs in vitro. Methods Parameters to induce acoustic droplet vaporization and subsequent microbubble cavitation were optimized in vitro using high-speed optical microscopy. Sonoporation of pancreatic cancer cells in suspension was then characterized at a range of pressures (125–600 kPa) and pulse lengths (5–50 cycles) using propidium iodide as an indicator molecule. Results We achieved sonoporation efficiencies ranging from 8 ± 1% to 36 ± 4% (percent of viable cells), as evidenced by flow cytometry. Increasing sonoporation efficiency trended with increasing pulse length and peak negative pressure. Conclusions We conclude that PCCAs can be used to induce the sonoporation of cells in vitro, and our results warrant further investigation into the use of PCCAs as extravascular sonoporation agents in vivo.