It was determined whether the expression level of several genes that regulate different steps of metastasis in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded archival specimens of human gastric cancers correlated with disease recurrence and metastasis. The steady-state mRNA expression level for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGF-R), basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), E-cadherin, type IV collagenase and multidrug resistance (MDR-1) were examined by a colorimetric in situ hybridisation (ISH) technique, concentrating on reactivity at the periphery of the lesions. All patients were operated on for cure. 15 cases were disease-free and 10 had disease recurrence by 4.5 years after resection of the primary tumours. The expression of EGF-R and bFGF type IV collagenase was higher and expression of E-cadherin was lower in the disease-recurrence cases than in the disease-free cases. The ratio between the expression level of collagenase type IV and E-cadherin at the periphery of the surgical specimens differed significantly between the disease-free cases and the recurrent-metastatic cases. These data show that multiparametric ISH analysis for several metastasis-related genes may allow prediction of disease recurrence of gastric cancer.