Gene amplification plays a critical role in tumor progression. Hence, understanding the factors triggering this process in human cancers is an important concern. Unfortunately, the structures formed at early stages are usually unavailable for study, hampering the identification of the initiating events in tumors. Here, we show that the region containing the PIP gene, which is overexpressed in 80% of primary and metastatic breast cancers, is duplicated in the breast carcinoma cell line T47D. The two copies are organized as a large palindrome, lying 'in loco' on one chromosome 7. Such features constitute the landmark of the breakage-fusion-bridge (BFB) cycle mechanism. In hamster cells selected in vitro to resist cytotoxic drugs, common fragile site (CFS) activation has been shown to trigger this mechanism. Here, we characterize FRA7I at the molecular level and demonstrate that it lies 2 Mb telomeric to the PIP gene and sets the distal end of the repeated sequence. Moreover, our results suggest that the BFB process was frozen within the first cycle by healing of the broken chromosome. T47D cells thus offer a unique opportunity to observe the earliest products of the BFB cycle mechanism. Our findings constitute the first evidence that this amplification mechanism can be initiated in vivo by fragile site activation.