Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a distinct geographical disease with high incidence in Southeast Asia. Previous CGH studies have located multiple regions of chromosomal gains and losses in NPC. To elucidate the regions of gain and amplification, a high-resolution array comparative genomic hybridization (array CGH) was applied to characterize the common amplicons in NPC cell lines and xenografts. Consistent with our previous CGH findings, frequent gains at chromosomes 1q, 3q, 7, 8, 9q, 12q and 20q were detected. High incidence of gains were identified on chromosome 3q and 12q. The findings were further confirmed by FISH analysis. Using 16 BAC clones on 3q26-28 and 6 BAC clones on 12q13, the smallest regions of gain at 3q and 12q were defined on five NPC cell lines. Chromosome 3q26.33 (RP11-510K16) and 12q13.2-q13.3 (RP11-183H16) showed the highest amplification frequency in FISH analysis with 100 and 66.7%, respectively. PIK3CA, a candidate oncogene located at 3q26.32 adjacent to this 3q amplicon was investigated by real-time quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Overexpression of this gene was found in 4 NPC cell lines and 3 xenografts. The findings implied that PIK3CA may be a putative oncogene involved in the tumorigenesis of NPC.