The lethality of solid tumors is in large part dependent on their ability to metastasize through hematologic and lymphatic transport pathways. The dissemination of cancer cells from the primary tumor to undergo transport, their ability to survive in transit and then to subsequently form metastatic colonies, is facilitated by a complex concert of signaling pathways and cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions. Elucidating these mechanistic components is highly valuable to guide the development of technologies for efficiently detecting and treating metastasis. To this end, in recent years nanotechnology approaches have provided several unique detection, characterization and treatment strategies. The current article will review these approaches to discuss their promise and challenges, specifically in metastatic cancer, above and beyond the usual nanomedicine applications in cancer therapy.