The HER-2/neu oncogene is a member of the erbB-like oncogene family, and is related to, but distinct from, the epidermal growth factor receptor. This gene has been shown to be amplified in human breast cancer cell lines. In the current study, alterations of the gene in 189 primary human breast cancers were investigated. HER-2/neu was found to be amplified from 2- to greater than 20-fold in 30% of the tumors. Correlation of gene amplification with several disease parameters was evaluated. Amplification of the HER-2/neu gene was a significant predictor of both overall survival and time to relapse in patients with breast cancer. It retained its significance even when adjustments were made for other known prognostic factors. Moreover, HER-2/neu amplification had greater prognostic value than most currently used prognostic factors, including hormonal-receptor status, in lymph node-positive disease. These data indicate that this gene may play a role in the biologic behavior and/or pathogenesis of human breast cancer.