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The majority of cancer deaths occur because of metastasis since current therapies are largely non-curative in the metastatic setting. The use of in vivo preclinical mouse models for assessing metastasis is, therefore, critical for developing effective new cancer biomarkers and therapies. Although a number of quantitative tools have been previously developed to study in vivo metastasis, the detection and quantification of rare metastatic events has remained challenging. This review will discuss the use of circulating tumor cell (CTC) analysis as an effective means of tracking and characterizing metastatic disease progression in preclinical mouse models of breast and prostate cancer and the resulting lessons learned about CTC and metastasis biology. We will also discuss how the use of clinically-relevant CTC technologies such as the CellSearch((R)) and Parsortix platforms for preclinical CTC studies can serve to enhance the study of cancer biology, new biomarkers, and novel therapies from the bench to the bedside.