A domain of DNA designated N-myc is amplified 20- to 140-fold in human neuroblastoma cell lines but not in cell lines from other tumor types. N-myc has now been found to be amplified in neuroblastoma tissue from 24 of 63 untreated patients (38 percent). The extent of amplification appears to be bimodal, with amplification of 100- to 300-fold in 12 cases and 3- to 10-fold in 10 others. Amplification was found in 0 of 15 patients with stage 1 or 2 disease, whereas 24 of 48 cases (50 percent) with stage 3 or 4 had evidence of N-myc amplification. These data indicate that N-myc amplification is a common event in untreated human neuroblastomas. Furthermore, N-myc amplification is highly correlated with advanced stages of disease (P < 0.001) and with the ability to grow in vitro as an established cell line, both of which are associated with a poor prognosis.