The purpose of this study was to classify breast carcinomas based on variations in gene expression patterns derived from cDNA microarrays and to correlate tumor characteristics to clinical outcome. A total of 85 cDNA microarray experiments representing 78 cancers, three fibroadenomas, and four normal breast tissues were analyzed by hierarchical clustering. As reported previously, the cancers could be classified into a basal epithelial-like group, an ERBB2-overexpressing group and a normal breast-like group based on variations in gene expression. A novel finding was that the previously characterized luminal epithelial/estrogen receptor-positive group could be divided into at least two subgroups, each with a distinctive expression profile. These subtypes proved to be reasonably robust by clustering using two different gene sets: first, a set of 456 cDNA clones previously selected to reflect intrinsic properties of the tumors and, second, a gene set that highly correlated with patient outcome. Survival analyses on a subcohort of patients with locally advanced breast cancer uniformly treated in a prospective study showed significantly different outcomes for the patients belonging to the various groups, including a poor prognosis for the basal-like subtype and a significant difference in outcome for the two estrogen receptor-positive groups.