Real-time monitoring of cancer cells’ phenotypic evolution during therapy can provide vital tumour biology information for treatment management. Circulating tumour cell (CTC) analysis has emerged as a useful monitoring tool, but its routine usage is restricted by either limited multiplexing capability or sensitivity. Here, we demonstrate the use of antibody-conjugated and Raman reporter-coated gold nanoparticles for simultaneous labelling and monitoring of multiple CTC surface markers (named as “cell signature”), without the need for isolating individual CTCs. We observe cell heterogeneity and phenotypic changes of melanoma cell lines during molecular targeted treatment. Furthermore, we follow the CTC signature changes of 10 stage-IV melanoma patients receiving immunological or molecular targeted therapies. Our technique maps the phenotypic evolution of patient CTCs sensitively and rapidly, and shows drug-resistant clones having different CTC signatures of potential clinical value. We believe our proposed method is of general interest in the CTC relevant research and translation fields.