In the present study the prognostic significance of accumulation of nuclear p53 protein on survival and freedom from local progression was investigated. Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded sections obtained by bronchoscopy or mediastinoscopy were used to examine the expression of nuclear p53 protein using immunohistochemistry. In 37 cases (57%), overexpression of the p53 protein was detected. No relation was found between p53 expression and other pretreatment variables. Response to radiotherapy was found in 11 p53-negative cases (65%) versus 10 p53-positive cases (42%). Freedom from local progression was significantly better in the p53-negative cases as compared with the p53-positive cases. The p53-negative cases who responded to radiotherapy showed an excellent freedom from local progression rate after 2 years of 100%, whereas all p53-positive cases without response to radiotherapy showed local progression within 24 months. Overall survival between p53-negative and -positive cases did not differ, however the disease-specific survival was found to be worse in the p53-positive cases as compared to the negative cases (median survival 8.4 vs, 14.4 months (P <0.05)). No correlation was found between p53 expression and the frequency of distant metastases. In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that p53 protein expression may be of prognostic value on freedom from local progression in non-small cell lung carcinoma.