The purpose of this study was to establish an accurate and accessible immunohistochemical (IHC) method for detecting vIII Egf receptor and to assess the prognostic significance of the method as applied to the detection of vIII in malignant astrocytomas. The accuracy of the method was determined by comparing vIII immunoreactivity in formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tumor sections versus RT-PCR results from the analysis of RNA extracted from corresponding frozen specimens. RT-PCR revealed vIII transcript in 18 of 44 cases in this series, and IHC analysis of matched formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded sections showed EGFRvIII reactivity in each of these 18 tumors, as well as 1 additional tumor that was negative for vIII transcript. EGFR amplification was evident in all tumors expressing vIII; none of the 15 tumors lacking amplified EGFR were positive for vIII transcript or vIII protein. IHC analysis for vill expression was next applied to a large series of anaplastic astrocytomas (AAs) and glioblastoma multiforme (GBMs) from clinical trial patients with complete follow-up and that had been previously examined by FISH for amplified EGFR. Among the GBMs, vIII detection by IHC was determined in 19 of 46 cases (41.3%) with EGFR amplification, and in only 3 of 59 tumors lacking amplified EGFR (5.1%). Among the AAs, vIII expression was observed in 3 of 14 cases with amplified EGFR (21.4%) and in 6 of 49 cases without EGFR amplification (12.2%). GBM and AA patient survival analysis as a function of vIII expression showed contrasting results, with vIII positivity having no association with survival among GBM patients (p = 0.84), but being highly associated with reduced survival among AA patients (p = 0.0016). This latter finding, though quite possibly a result of vIII's association with increasing AA patient age, suggests that vIII IHC will be useful for identifying and/or confirming the identity of malignant astrocytomas whose clinical behavior is consistent with that of GBM.