Evaluation of isolated tumour cells in bone marrow (BM) and peripheral blood has become a major focus of translational cancer research. The presence of disseminated tumour cells in BM is a common phenomenon observed in 30–40% of primary breast cancer patients and independently predicts reduced clinical outcome. The detection of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in blood might become a desired alternative to the invasive and painful BM biopsy. Recent clinical trials confirmed the feasibility of CTC detection as a robust and reproducible parameter for prognostication in both adjuvant and metastatic setting. The characterisation of CTCs might become an important biomarker for therapy monitoring and help to identify specific targets for novel therapeutic strategies.