Abnormalities of the type 1 growth factor receptor family have been implicated in the pathogenesis of pancreatic cancer. There is evidence for a potential autocrine loop involving overexpression of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor and its ligands, as well as overexpression of the erbB-2 receptor. A third member of this receptor family, erbB-3, has recently been recognized and found to be abnormally expressed in some types of human cancer. In this study we show that overexpression of the erbB-3 protein occurs very frequently in carcinoma of the exocrine pancreas and also in chronic pancreatitis. We found no evidence of amplification or rearrangement of the erbB-3 gene by Southern blot analysis of DNA from pancreatic cancer cells lines.