Aneuploidy is a well recognised feature of human tumours, but the investigation of its biological and clinical significance has been hampered by technological constraints. Quantitative DNA analysis reflects the total chromosomal content of tumour cells and can now be determined rapidly and reliably using flow cytometry; this has resulted in renewed interest in its potential clinical applications. This article reviews the accumulating evidence that tumour ploidy reflects the biological behaviour of a large number of tumour types and that diploid tumours in particular have a relatively good prognosis. The measurement of tumour ploidy is likely to become a valuable adjunct to the clinical and histopathological assessment of cancers.
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