Although c-erbB-2 oncoprotein immunohistochemical expression has been thoroughly studied in a variety of human tumors, its prognostic significance remains unclear. Moreover, differences in assessment criteria further complicate the evaluation of c-erbB-2 as a prognostic marker. In the present study we examined the expression of c-erbB-2 protein in 107 patients suffering from operable (T 1,2-N0, 1 staged) non-small cell lung cancer (30 adenocarcinomas and 69 squamous cell carcinomas) treated with surgery alone. A 3-7 year of follow up (median 45 months) was available for all patients. Paraffin embedded sections were stained with the NCL-CB11 monoclonal antibody using the immunoperoxidase technique. Analysis was based on cytoplasmic reactivity as membrane staining was impossible to assess against this background. Strong positive cytoplasmic staining was identified in 20/107 (19%) of cases, weak in 30/107 (20%) and negative in 57/107 (53%). Results were correlated with patient variables (age,sex) and tumor parameters (T,N-stage, grade, histology, Ki67 proliferation index, p53 and EGFR expression). C-erbB-2 expression was not related to any of these factors. Although c-erbB-2 defined a worse prognosis, univariate analysis of survival did not confirm any statistically significant difference between the c-erbB-2 staining groups (p=0.5). T,N-stage were the only statistically significant prognostic variables. Any contribution of c-erbB-2 to the development of tumour aggressive behaviour in non-small cell lung cancer requires assessment in the specific subgroups of patients.