The clonality of tumor cells was studied in a patient with metastasizing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Using hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA as a genetic marker, the pattern of integration of viral DNA into the tumor cell genome was determined by Southern blot analyses of DNAs extracted from different HCC lesions in the liver and both lungs. All tumor tissues examined were found to have viral DNA integrated into the same site(s) of the cellular genome. This finding provides direct molecular evidence for a monoclonal origin and expansion of malignantly transformed hepatocytes during tumor growth and metastasis. This characteristic is similar to other human cancers associated with viral infections, such as adult T-cell leukemia, Burkitt's lymphoma, or cervical cancer, and is important for our understanding of viral oncogenesis in man.