Four hundred and thirty-three human breast carcinomas and 23 cell lines derived from human breast carcinomas were heterotransplanted in nude mice. Twenty-eight tumors and 13 cell lines took and could be serially transplanted. Their human origin was established by isozyme analysis performed on successive passages. Sixteen primary infiltrating duct-cell carcinomas (PIDC) took, from a total of 262 transplanted (6.1%). This is in striking contrast to the greater than 50% rate of takes of most major cancers of epithelial origin. All 16 PIDC growing in nude mice were highly cellular and lacked desmoplastic hyperplasia. The clinical prognosis of the PIDC patients whose tumors were successfully transplanted was poor. Ten of 16 (63%) died of their disease within 3 years, compared to only 49 (20%) of the 246 PIDC patients whose tumors did not take in nude mice. This could not be attributed to later stage disease of the tumors that took, because only 15% of these patients had 4 or more positive axillary lymph nodes as opposed to 28% of the patients whose tumors did not take. Sixty-four percent of the breast carcinomas growing in nude mice exhibited amplification of the HER-2/neu oncogene which is also correlated with poor prognosis in human breast cancer. It is possible that the nude mouse is more susceptible to a population of highly invasive and lethal breast carcinomas.