To determine the role of the Wilms' tumor gene WT1 in tumorigenesis of solid tumors, expression of the WT1 gene was examined in 34 solid tumor cell lines (four gastric cancer cell lines, five colon cancer cell lines, 15 lung cancer cell lines, four breast cancer cell lines, one germ cell tumor cell line, two ovarian cancer cell lines, one uterine cancer cell line, one thyroid cancer cell line, and one hepatocellular carcinoma cell line) by means of quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. WT1 gene expression was detected in three of the four gastric cancer cell lines, all of the five colon cancer cell lines, 12 of the 15 lung cancer cell lines, two of the four breast cancer cell lines, the germ cell tumor cell line, the two ovarian cancer cell lines, the uterine cancer cell line, the thyroid cancer cell line, and the hepatocellular carcinoma cell line. Therefore, of the 34 solid tumor cell lines examined, 28 (82%) expressed WT1. Three cell lines expressing WT1 (gastric cancer cell line AZ-521, lung cancer cell line OS3, and ovarian cancer cell line TYK-nu) were further analyzed for mutations and/or deletions in the WT1 gene by means of single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis. However, no mutations or deletions were detected in the region of the WT1 gene ranging from the 3' end of exon 1 to exon 10 (the WT1 gene consists of 10 exons) in these three cell lines. Furthermore, when AZ-521, OS3, and TYK-nu cells were treated with WT1 antisense oligomers, the growth of these cells was significantly inhibited in association with a reduction in WT1 protein levels. Furthermore, constitute expression of the transfected WT1 gene in cancer cells inhibited the antisense effect of WT1 antisense oligomer on cell growth. These results indicated that the WT1 gene plays an essential role in the growth of solid tumors and performs an oncogenic rather than a tumor-suppressor gene function.