Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are malignant cells separate from primary tumors, which can migrate through the peripheral blood, colonize other tissues, and lead to the formation of metastases. The first description of CTCs dates back to 1869 when Thomas Ashworth recognized malignant cells similar to the ones of the primary tumor in the blood vessels of an autopsied patient with metastatic cancer. Currently, CTCs have been identified in various types of cancer and have been recognized for their clinical value in the prediction of prognosis, diagnosis of minimal residual diseases, assessment of tumor sensitivity to anticancer drugs, and personalization of therapies. However, research about these topics has several limitations, principally the rarity of CTCs in bloodstream and their heterogeneous characteristics, which makes detection and isolation difficult. As a result of these limitations, current studies are focused on improvement of isolation and characterization techniques to achieve better sensitivity in clinical applications. This review covers the methods of CTC isolation and detection and current research progression on CTC in different cancer types. The clinical applications, limitations, and perspectives of CTCs are also discussed.