One of the greatest challenges in neuro-oncology is diagnosis and therapy (theranostics) of leptomeningeal metastasis (LM), brain metastasis (BM) and brain tumors (BT), which are associated with poor prognosis in patients. Retrospective analyses suggest that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is one of the promising diagnostic targets because CSF passes through central nervous system, harvests tumor-related markers from brain tissue and, then, delivers them into peripheral parts of the human body where CSF can be sampled using minimally invasive and routine clinical procedure. However, limited sensitivity of the established clinical diagnostic cytology in vitro and MRI in vivo together with minimal therapeutic options do not provide patient care at early, potentially treatable, stages of LM, BM and BT. Novel technologies are in demand. This review outlines the advantages, limitations and clinical utility of emerging liquid biopsy in vitro and photoacoustic flow cytometry (PAFC) in vivo for assessment of CSF markers including circulating tumor cells (CTCs), circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), microRNA (miRNA), proteins, exosomes and emboli. The integration of in vitro and in vivo methods, PAFC-guided theranostics of single CTCs and targeted drug delivery are discussed as future perspectives.