Pleiotrophin (PTN, Ptn) is an 18kDa cytokine expressed in human breast cancers. Since inappropriate expression of Ptn stimulates progression of breast cancer in transgenic mice and a dominant negative PTN reverses the transformed phenotype of human breast cancer cells that inappropriately express Ptn, it is suggested that constitutive PTN signaling in breast cancer cells that inappropriately express Ptn activates pathways that promote a more aggressive breast cancer phenotype. Pleiotrophin signals by inactivating its receptor, the receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase (RPTP)beta/zeta, and, recently, PTN was found to activate anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) through the PTN/RPTPbeta/zeta signaling pathway in PTN-stimulated cells, not through a direct interaction of PTN with ALK and thus not through the PTN-enforced dimerization of ALK. Since full-length ALK is activated in different malignant cancers and activated ALK is a potent oncogenic protein, we examined human breast cancers to test the possibility that ALK may be expressed in breast cancers and potentially activated through the PTN/RPTPbeta/zeta signaling pathway; we now demonstrate that ALK is strongly expressed in different histological subtypes of human breast cancer; furthermore, ALK is expressed in both nuclei and cytoplasm and, in the ;;dotted" pattern characteristic of ALK fusion proteins in anaplastic large cell lymphoma. This study thus supports the possibility that activated ALK may be important in human breast cancers and potentially activated either through the PTN/RPTPbeta/zeta signaling pathway, or, alternatively, as an activated fusion protein to stimulate progression of breast cancer in humans.