Though regular sonographic examination can early detect small hepatocellular carcinoma, the therapeutic results remains unsatisfactory. Antigen-specific immunotherapy is an alternative approach for controlling tumors. The prerequisite for antigen-specific cancer immunotherapy is the identification of appropriate tumor antigens. Recently, a new category of tumor-specific shared antigens, called cancer-testis antigens, has been identified. The cancer-testis antigens have been found in a variety of cancers. However, the expression of cancer-testis antigens in human hepatocellular carcinomas is unknown. The aim of this current study is to investigate the expression of cancer-testis antigens in human hepatocellular carcinomas. Reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to investigate the expression of the SSX-1,-2,-4,-5, SCP-1, NY-ESO-1 genes in tumorous and corresponding non-tumorous liver tissues. In the 30 hepatocellular carcinomas studied, SSX-1,-2,-4,-5, SCP-1, and NY-ESO-1 mRNA expressions were detected in 24 (80%), 14 (46.7%), 22 (73.3%), 10 (33.3%), 2 (6.7%), and 11 (36.7%), respectively. Expressions of these genes were detected in few non-tumor liver tissues. The cancer-testis antigens are expressed in a high percentage of hepatocellular carcinomas. These cancer-testis antigen gene products are potential targets for antigen-specific immunotherapy of hepatocellular carcinoma.