Eighty-nine patients with untreated primary neuroblastomas were studied to determine the relation between the number of copies of the N-myc oncogene and survival without disease progression. Genomic amplification (3 to 300 copies) of N-myc was detected in 2 of 16 tumors in Stage II, 13 of 20 in Stage III, and 19 of 40 in Stage IV; in contrast, 8 Stage I and 5 Stage IV-S tumors all had 1 copy of the gene (P less than 0.01). Analysis of progression-free survival in all patients revealed that amplification of N-myc was associated with the worst prognosis (P less than 0.0001); the estimated progression-free survival at 18 months was 70 per cent, 30 per cent, and 5 per cent for patients whose tumors had 1, 3 to 10, or more than 10 N-myc copies, respectively. Of 16 Stage II tumors, 2 with amplification metastasized, whereas only 1 of 14 without amplification did so (P = 0.03). Stage IV tumors with amplification progressed most rapidly: nine months after diagnosis the estimated progression-free survival was 61 per cent, 47 per cent, and 0 per cent in patients whose tumors had 1, 3 to 10, or more than 10 copies, respectively (P less than 0.0001). These results suggest that genomic amplification of N-myc may have a key role in determining the aggressiveness of neuroblastomas.