Retroviruses are the original source of oncogenes. The discovery and characterization of these genes was made possible by the introduction of quantitative cell biological and molecular techniques for the study of tumour viruses. Key features of all retroviral oncogenes were first identified in src, the oncogene of Rous sarcoma virus. These include non-involvement in viral replication, coding for a single protein and cellular origin. The MYC, RAS and ERBB oncogenes quickly followed SRC, and these together with PI3K are now recognized as crucial driving forces in human cancer.