The vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has been shown to be strictly related to vascular permeability and endothelial cell growth under physiological and pathological conditions. In tumour development and progression, VEGF plays a pivotal role in the development of the tumoral vascular network, and useful information in the progression of human cancer can be obtained by analysing the vascular endothelial growth factor expression of the tumours. In this study, we investigated the vascular endothelial growth factor transcript expression in non-small-cell lung carcinomas to evaluate the significance of this factor in a group of cancers in which the vascular pattern has been shown to significantly affect progression. Surgical samples of 42 patients with NSCLC were studied using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis and in situ hybridization. Thirty-three out of 42 cases (78.6%) showed VEGF transcript expression predominantly as transcripts for the secretory forms of VEGF (isoforms 121 and 165). In situ hybridization, performed on 24 out of 42 samples, showed that the VEGF transcript expression was in several cases present in the cytoplasm both of neoplastic and normal cells, even if the VEGF mRNA was less expressed in the corresponding non-tumoral part. The VEGF 121 expression was associated with hilar and/or mediastinal nodal involvement (P = 0.02), and, taken together, the VEGF isoforms were shown to significantly influence overall (P = 0.02) and disease-free survival (P = 0.03). As a regulator of tumour angiogenesis, VEGF may represent a useful indicator of progression and poor prognosis in non-small-cell lung carcinomas.