The isolation and analysis of circulating tumor cells (CTC) has the potential to provide minimally invasive diagnostic, prognostic and predictive information. Widespread clinical implementation of CTC analysis has been hampered by a lack of comparative investigation between different analytic methodologies in clinically relevant settings. The objective of this study was to evaluate four different CTC isolation techniques-those that rely on surface antigen expression (EpCAM or CD45 using DynaBeads® or EasySep™ systems) or the biophysical properties (RosetteSep™ or ScreenCell®) of CTCs. These were evaluated using cultured cells in order to calculate isolation efficiency at various levels including; inter-assay and inter-operator variability, protocol complexity and turn-around time. All four techniques were adequate at levels above 100 cells/mL which is commonly used for the evaluation of new isolation techniques. Only the RosetteSep™ and ScreenCell® techniques were found to provide adequate sensitivity at a level of 10 cells/mL. These techniques were then applied to the isolation and analysis of circulating tumor cells blood drawn from metastatic breast cancer patients where CTCs were detected in 54% (15/28) of MBC patients using the RosetteSep™ and 75% (6/8) with ScreenCell®. Overall, the ScreenCell® method had better sensitivity.