Carcinoma of the breast and ovary account for one-third of all cancers occurring in women and together are responsible for approximately one-quarter of cancer-related deaths in females. The HER-2/neu proto-oncogene is amplified in 25 to 30 percent of human primary breast cancers and this alteration is associated with disease behavior. In this report, several similarities were found in the biology of HER-2/neu in breast and ovarian cancer, including a similar incidence of amplification, a direct correlation between amplification and over-expression, evidence of tumors in which overexpression occurs without amplification, and the association between gene alteration and clinical outcome. A comprehensive study of the gene and its products (RNA and protein) was simultaneously performed on a large number of both tumor types. This analysis identified several potential shortcomings of the various methods used to evaluate HER-2/neu in these diseases (Southern, Northern, and Western blots, and immunohistochemistry) and provided information regarding considerations that should be addressed when studying a gene or gene product in human tissue. The data presented further support the concept that the HER-2/neu gene may be involved in the pathogenesis of some human cancers.