Chemotherapy resistance remains a challenge in the clinical management of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Here, early changes in cell-free circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) levels were explored as a marker of therapeutic efficacy. Twenty-four mCRC patients were enrolled and treated with FOLFIRI based first-line therapy. Blood samples collected pre-treatment, at day 7, 14, 21, 60 and at progression were analysed for cell-free DNA (cfDNA) and ctDNA levels using digital droplet PCR. A subset of samples were additionally analysed by targeted sequencing. Patients with high pre-treatment ctDNA or cfDNA levels (≥75 centile) had significantly shorter progression free survival (PFS) than patients with lower levels. Despite an overall decline in ctDNA levels from pre-treatment to first CT-scan, serial analysis identified seven patients with temporary increases in ctDNA consistent with growth of resistant cells. These patients had shorter PFS and shorter overall survival. Targeted sequencing analyses of cfDNA revealed dramatic changes in the clonal composition in response to treatment. Our study suggests that increasing ctDNA levels during the first cycles of first-line FOLFIRI treatment is a predictor of incipient progressive disease and poorer survival. Thus, we demonstrate the importance of monitoring ctDNA levels as early as one week after treatment onset to enable early detection of treatment failure.