Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are low frequency cells found in the bloodstream after having been shed from a primary tumor. These cells are research targets because of the information they may potentially provide about both an individual cancer as well as the mechanisms through which cancer spreads in the process of metastasis. Established technologies exist for CTC isolation, but the recent progress and future of this field lie in nanomaterials. In this review, we provide perspective into historical CTC capture as well as current research being conducted, emphasizing the significance of the materials being used to fabricate these devices. The modern investigation into CTCs initially featured techniques that have since been commercialized. A major innovation in the field was the development of a microfluidic capture device, first fabricated in silicon and followed up with glass and thermopolymer devices. We then specifically highlight the technologies incorporating magnetic nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes, nanowires, nanopillars, nanofibers, and nanoroughened surfaces, graphene oxide and their fabrication methods. The nanoscale provides a new set of tools that has the potential to overcome current limitations associated with CTC capture and analysis. We believe the current trajectory of the field is in the direction of nanomaterials, allowing the improvements necessary to further CTC research.