Telomerase activity was analysed in 100 neuroblastoma cases. Although telomerase activity was not detected in normal adrenal tissues or benign ganglioneuromas, almost all neuroblastomas (94%) did express it, suggesting an important role for telomerase in neuroblastoma development. Neuroblastomas with high telomerase activity had other genetic changes (for example, N-myc amplification) and an unfavourable prognosis, whereas tumours with low telomerase activity were devoid of such genetic alterations and were associated with a favourable prognosis. Three neuroblastomas lacking telomerase activity regressed (stage IVS). Thus telomerase expression may be required as a critical step in the multigenetic process of tumorigenesis, and two different pathways may exist for the development of neuroblastoma.