To examine a potential contribution of protooncogene abnormalities other than point-mutational activation of the K-ras protooncogene in the classification of non-small cell lung cancer, amplification of cellular protooncogenes was studied in 47 lung tumour specimens obtained at thoracotomy and in four lung tumour cell lines. The primary tumours included 21 adenocarcinomas, nine large-cell carcinomas, 13 epidermoid carcinomas, one carcinoid and three metastases of primaries outside the lung. The copy numbers per haploid genome of 11 protooncogenes in every tumour sample were determined: H-ras, K-ras, N-ras, c-myc, N-myc, L-myc, erbB, mos, myb, ncu (erbB-2) and ral amplifications. The c-myc gene was amplified 5-7-fold in two adenocarcinomas, the H-ras gene 3 5-fold in one adenocarcinoma, while the K-ras and the neu gene were amplified in lung metastases from a colorectal and a breast cancer primary respectively. None of the tumours with an amplified protooncogene simultaneously harboured a mutationally activated K-ras gene. We conclude that amplification of the investigated protooncogenes is a rare event in non-small cell lung cancer. In view of the two c-myc amplifications detected, a systematic study of c-myc expression levels in non-small cell lung cancers appears worthwhile.