Alterations in the gene copy numbers of the proto-oncogenes HER2/neu and c-myc in primary human breast cancer investigated in 73 patients. We detected amplification of HER2/neu in 17 patient samples and amplification of c-myc in 11, while amplification of both was seen in 6 samples. There was no correlation of age, hormone receptor positivity or tumour size with amplification of either proto-oncogene. Amplification of HER2/neu was significantly correlated with the stage of the disease. HER2/neu amplification was observed in 18.5% and 38% of node-negative and node-positive patients, respectively; the association between HER2/neu amplification and advanced stage of the disease was statistically significant (p = 0.05). Since this is a prospective study, the clinical significance of oncogene amplification is not known. The relatively high frequency of HER2/neu amplification points to a functional role in human breast cancer, particularly in the progression of the disease. The method used in our study allows oncogene amplification to be studied in conjunction with hormone receptor determination and thus may be of value in large clinical trials to determine the significance of oncogene abnormalities in breast cancer.