The protein tyrosine phosphatase SHP-1 is predominantly expressed in hemopoietic cell lineages, where its function is relatively well defined. However, its expression profile also extends to certain epithelial cell types. Furthermore, the negative regulatory role of this enzyme in hemopoietic cell signaling may not apply to other systems, where positive effects on particular tyrosine kinase signaling pathways have been described. Expression of SHP-1 was therefore investigated in human breast cancer cell lines and primary breast cancers. Differential expression of SHP-1 mRNA was observed among the 19 breast cancer cell lines examined, and in an analysis of 72 primary breast cancers, SHP-1 mRNA expression was increased 2- to 12-fold relative to normal breast epithelial cells in 58% of the samples. Interestingly, a subset of the cancers also over-expressed GRB2 mRNA by 2- to 7-fold, and a significant (p < 0.01) positive correlation was observed between SHP-1 and GRB2 mRNA expression. Since these proteins can bind to each other and regulate MEK/MAP kinase activation, their co-ordinate up-regulation may amplify tyrosine kinase signaling in breast cancer cells.