The availability of new therapeutic options for the treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) has heightened the importance of monitoring and assessing treatment response. Accordingly, there is an unmet clinical need for reliable biomarkers that can be used to guide therapy. Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) are rare cells that are shed from primary and metastatic tumour deposits into the peripheral circulation, and represent a means of performing noninvasive tumour sampling. Indeed, enumeration of CTCs before and after therapy has shown that CTC burden correlates with prognosis in patients with mCRPC. Moreover, studies have demonstrated the potential of molecular analysis of CTCs in monitoring and predicting response to therapy in patients. This Review describes the challenges associated with monitoring treatment response in mCRPC, and the advancements in CTC-analysis technologies applied to such assessments and, ultimately, guiding prostate cancer treatment.