Preoperative staging of gastric cancer is difficult and not optimal. The TNM stage is an important prognostic factor, but it can only be assessed reliably after surgery. Therefore, there is need for additional, reliable prognostic factors that can be determined preoperatively in order to select patients who might benefit from (neo) adjuvant treatment. Expression of immunohistochemical markers was demonstrated to be associated with tumour progression and metastasis. The expression of p53, CD44 (splice variants v5, v6 and v9), E-cadherin, Ep-CAM (CO17-1A antigen) and c-erB2/neu were investigated in tumour tissues of 300 patients from the Dutch Gastric Cancer Trial, investigating the value of extended lymphadenectomy compared to that of limited lymphadenectomy). The expression of tumour markers was analysed with respect to patient survival. Patients without loss of Ep-CAM-expression of tumour cells (19%) had a significantly better 10-year survival (P<0.0001) compared to patients with any loss: 42% (s.e.=7%) vs 22% (s.e.=3%). Patients with CD44v6 (VFF18) expression in more than 25% of the tumour cells (69% of the patients) also had a significantly better survival (P=0.01) compared to patients with expression in less than 25% of the tumour cells: 10 year survival rate of 29% (s.e.=3%) vs 19% (s.e.=4%). The prognostic value of both markers was stronger in stages I and II, and independent of the TNM stage. Ep-CAM and CD44v6-expression provides prognostic information additional to the TNM stage. Loss of Ep-CAM-expression identifies aggressive tumours especially in patients with stage I and II disease. This information may be helpful in selecting patients suitable for surgery or for additional treatment pre- or postoperatively.