Early identification of patients at high risk of relapse is a major goal of current translational research in oncohematology. Minimal residual disease (MRD) detection by polymerase chain reaction-based methods is currently part of the routine clinical management of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. However, the current knowledge indicates that it is also a useful prognostic tool in several mature lymphoproliferative disorders. Its utility is currently well established in follicular lymphoma, mantle cell lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. In some of these entities, clinical trials employing MRD as a decision-making tool are currently ongoing. In the present review, we will discuss the ‘state of the art’ of MRD evaluation in these three neoplasms with the ultimate aim of providing critical take-home messages for clinicians working in the field. Moreover, we will outline the role of MRD detection in the design of future clinical trials. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.