Analysis of gene expression on a medium- or large-scale is an increasingly recognized method for functional and clinical investigations based on the now extensive catalog of known or partially sequenced genes. The accessibility of this approach can be enhanced by using readily available technology (macroarrays on Nylon, radioactive detection) and the IMAGE resource to assemble sets of targets. We have set up such a medium-scale, flexible system and validated it by the study of quantitative expression levels for 120 genes in six cell lines, including three mammary carcinoma cell lines. A number of important parameters are identified as necessary for the assembly of a valid set and the obtention of good-quality quantitative data. The extensive data assembled in this survey identified potential targets of carcinogenesis, for example the CRABP2 and GATA3 transcription factor genes. We also demonstrate the feasibility of this procedure for relatively small tumor samples, without recourse to probe amplification methods.