Advanced ovarian cancer is characterized by poor prognosis and the development of resistance to chemotherapy. We have found that Bcl-2 and p53, two proteins implicated in the control of apoptosis, are differentially expressed in the ovarian cell line A2780 and its cisplatin-resistant variant 2780CP, with the resistant line overexpressing both proteins. Transfection of the A2780 cells with a Bcl-2- or p53-expressing plasmid increases resistance to various drugs, including cisplatin, suggesting that Bcl-2 and p53 expression may influence the sensitivity of ovarian cancer cell lines to chemotherapy. Expression of these two proteins in vivo was determined by immunohistochemical staining of ovarian tumor biopsies from 70 patients. We found that Bcl-2 and p53 were expressed in 57 and 61% of specimens examined, respectively. Both p53 and Bcl-2 were found to be independent prognostic indicators of survival in ovarian cancer. Survival was poorer in patients with tumors expressing high levels of p53, whereas expression of Bcl-2 was associated with improved survival.