The cascade of genetic alterations leading to malignant transformation has been described for adenocarcinoma of the colon but is not established for other common tumor entities. In the present study, different stages of transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the bladder are analyzed by comparative genomic hybridization. A dynamic pattern of the chromosomal changes during tumor progression is described. Deletion of chromosome arm 9q is the earliest genetic alteration in pTa tumors. In stage pT1 carcinomas, losses of 9q, 9p, and 11p and gain of 1q and 8q are the most common. In addition to the changes specific for earlier stages, gain of 5p and 20q becomes prominent in carcinomas stage > or =pT2. Association analysis reveals a remarkable cooccurrence of 9p deletion with gain of 5p and 20q in > or =pT2 tumors. In order to determine more precisely the size of the amplified segment and the degree of amplification on chromosome arm 8q in stage pT1 tumors, this region was analyzed by semiquantitative PCR using polymorphic microsatellite markers. These studies revealed an up to 13-fold amplification. The common region of amplification could be narrowed down to 8q22.3 and between GAAT1A4 and D8S1834 (about 7 cM).