Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are distinctive, KIT positive mesenchymal neoplasms. The genetic alterations leading to the malignant behavior of these tumors are not well known. In this study, we looked for recurrent numerical chromosomal changes, which may be associated with malignant GISTs, using interphase fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Fourteen malignant primary tumors and two intra-abdominal recurrences were analyzed. Nine benign tumors were studied for comparison. In all cases, the presence of mutations in exons 9, 11 and 13 of the KIT gene were evaluated. Sixteen centromeric enumeration probes (CEP) for chromosomes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, and X and three locus specific probes (LSI) for 22q11.2 (BCR-locus), 13q14 (RB1-locus) and 14q32 (IgH-locus) were used. The most common changes seen in malignant GISTs were losses of 14q32 and 22q11. However, these changes were commonly detected in benign tumors and represent early changes related to the pathogenesis of GISTs. Losses of chromosomes 1 and 9 were the only recurrent numerical changes seen exclusively in malignant GISTs. Other recurrent numerical changes seen predominantly in malignant tumors were gain of chromosome 8 and losses of chromosomes 7 and 15. The concurrent loss of chromosome 7 and gain of chromosome 8 (in 4 cases) was never seen together with loss of chromosomes 9 or 15 and only once with loss of chromosome 1. Mutations in KIT were found in the majority of malignant GISTs (64%) confirming a previously shown correlation between presence of such mutations and malignancy. KIT mutations were seen in four of five malignant GISTs with loss of chromosome 9, but only in one of four malignant tumors with loss of chromosome 1. These observations may reflect the different pathways leading to malignant transformation of GISTs.