The clinical complications derived from metastatic disease are responsible for the majority of all breast cancer related deaths. Since cell migration and invasion are a prerequisite for metastasis their assessment in patient cancer cells in vitro may have prognostic value for the tumor's metastatic capacity. We employed real-time cell analysis (RTCA) on the xCELLigence DP system to determine in vitro motility of patient-derived primary human breast cancer epithelial cells (HBCEC). Initially, the RTCA assay was validated using established human breast cancer cell lines with either an invasive (MDA-MB-231, MDA-MB-435s) or a non-invasive phenotype (MCF-7, MDA-MB-468), and primary NSCLC cells (Tu459). Previous standard assays of cell migration/invasion revealed that only MDA-MB-231, -435s, and Tu459 cells exhibited spontaneous and TGF-ß1-stimulated migration and invasion through a Matrigel barrier. In the present study, the TGF-ß1-stimulated activities could be blocked by SB431542, a potent kinase inhibitor of the TGF-ß type I receptor ALK5. Application of the RTCA assay to patient-derived tumor cells showed that 4/4 primary HBCEC and primary NSCLC cells, but not normal human mammary epithelial cells (HMEC), displayed high spontaneous migratory and invasive activity which correlated with higher MMP-2 expression and uPA protein levels in HBCEC compared to HMEC. Upon treatment with TGF-ß1, HBCEC exhibited morphologic and gene regulatory alterations indicative of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. However, exclusively the invasive but not the migratory activity of HBCEC was further enhanced by TGF-ß1. This indicates the requirement for molecular, e.g. integrin interactions with Matrigel components in HBCEC in order to become responsive to pro-invasive TGF-ß effects. Together, these results show for the first time that tumorigenic HBCEC but not normal HMEC possess a strong basal migratory as well as a basal and TGF-ß1-inducible invasive potential. These findings qualify the RTCA assay as an in vitro migration/invasion testing system for patient-specific primary breast cancer cells.