Transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) have been shown to be present in most squamous cell carcinomas. Using the Syrian hamster oral cancer model, we have recently demonstrated the consistent presence of TGF-alpha and EGFR mRNAs in chemically transformed hamster oral keratinocytes. We now present evidence that in human oral cancer (in vivo and in vitro), TGF-alpha and EGFR mRNAs can also be consistently detected. No TGF-alpha mRNA can be detected in normal human oral epithelium by Northern blot analysis. These findings reinforce the use of the hamster cheek pouch as an experimental model for the study of oral cancer development, at least in reference to the possible participation of TGF-alpha in the malignant transformation process.