Cancer has emerged as a leading cause of mortality worldwide, claiming more than 8 million lives annually. Gastrointestinal cancers account for about 35% of these mortalities. Recent advances in diagnostic and treatment strategies have reduced mortality among patients with gastrointestinal cancer, yet a significant number of patients still develop late-stage cancer, where treatment options are inadequate. Emerging interests in «liquid biopsies» have encouraged investigators to identify and develop clinically relevant noninvasive genomic and epigenomic signatures that can be exploited as biomarkers capable of detecting premalignant and early-stage cancers. In this context, microRNAs (miRNA), which are small, noncoding RNAs that are frequently dysregulated in cancers, have emerged as promising entities for such diagnostic purposes. Even though the future looks promising, current approaches for detecting miRNAs in blood and other biofluids remain inadequate. This review summarizes existing efforts to exploit circulating miRNAs as cancer biomarkers and evaluates their potential and challenges as liquid biopsy–based biomarkers for gastrointestinal cancers. Clin Cancer Res; 23(10); 2391–9. ©2017 AACR.