The multi-factorial and multi-step nature of cancer development makes analysis difficult in cell culture and non-genetic animal models. Recent progress in technology has allowed the development of several transgenic animal models addressing various aspects of liver diseases caused by hepatitis B virus in human patients. The experimental data from these studies in vivo highlight the importance of HBV gene products that alone or in conjunction with other host cellular protein(s) can deregulate the cell cycle control checkpoints in the hepatocytes of transgenic mice leading to the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. Moreover, these models are extremely useful in analysing and ascertaining the stages of malignant transformation linked to multiple genetic and non-genetic events of cancer development and in developing novel strategies of intervention. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.