Amplification at the long arm of chromosome 8 occurs in a large fraction of breast and prostate cancers. To clone the target genes for this amplification, we used suppression subtraction hybridization to identify overexpressed genes in the breast cancer cell line SK-Br-3, which harbors amplification at 8q (8q21 and 8q23-q24). A differentially expressed gene identified by SSH, the p40 subunit of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 3 (eIF3), was localized to 8q23 and found to be highly amplified and overexpressed in the breast and prostate cancer cell lines studied. High-level amplification of eIF3-p40 was found in 30% of hormone-refractory prostate tumors and in 18% of untreated primary breast tumors. In the vast majority of the cases, p40 and c-myc were amplified with equal copy numbers. Tumors with higher copy numbers of p40 than c-myc were also found. Expression of p40 mRNA was analyzed with in situ hybridization. The amplification of eIF3-p40 gene was associated with overexpression of its mRNA, as expected for a functional target gene of the amplification. These results imply that genomic aberrations of translation initiation factors, such as eIF3-p40, may contribute to the pathogenesis of breast and prostate cancer.