Thrombospondin (TSP), which plays an important hemostatic role, is a 450-kd cytoadhesive protein present in the alpha granules of platelets. In vitro experiments using cultured malignant cells suggest that it may help to mediate malignant cell attachment to extracellular matrix and may be important in cancer invasiveness. The authors studied a group of malignant and benign breast tissues for the expression of TSP and provide evidence that TSP may have a role in tumor invasiveness. Using immunohistochemical techniques, the authors found in 48 fresh specimens of breast carcinoma that TSP stained strongly in the desmoplastic stroma or at the basement membrane associated with the malignant ductal epithelium. Tumor cells abutting these tissues revealed cytoplasmic staining for TSP. Stronger TSP staining was seen in the poorly differentiated tumors. These findings were compared with those of normal and benign breast tissue, which showed no TSP staining apart from reactivity in the large distended cysts of fibrocystic disease and faint staining in the stroma of fibroadenomas. Staining for integrin was positive in lymphocytes of both malignant and benign breast disease and equivocally also in the stromal cells of the breast cancer tissue. Immunoreactivity to TSP in tissues was also compared with that of fibronectin, laminin, and collagen type I, III, and IV. The overall findings suggest that thrombospondin may have a role in the tumor biology of invasiveness.