Traditionally, tumours have been categorized on the basis of histology. However, the staining pattern of cancer cells viewed under the microscope is insufficient to reflect the complicated underlying molecular events that drive the neoplastic process. By surveying thousands of genes at once, using DNA arrays, it is now possible to read the molecular signature of an individual patient's tumour. When the signature is analysed with clustering algorithms, new classes of cancer emerge that transcend distinctions based on histological appearance alone. Using DNA arrays, protein arrays and appropriate experimental models, the ultimate goal is to move beyond correlation and classification to achieve new insights into disease mechanisms and treatment targets.