Mutations of the p53 tumor-suppressor gene, as determined by the immunohistochemistry of archival formalin-fixed specimens, have been correlated with the prognosis for patients with many different types of malignancy. Similar correlations have been shown in series including patients with all grades of astrocytoma. We hypothesized that this might be a clinically useful prognostic indicator for patients with a defined grade of astrocytoma, anaplastic astrocytoma. This series comprised 54 consecutive patients with biopsy-proven anaplastic astrocytoma treated at one institution. When the CM-1 antiserum was used for testing, 33 (61%) of the 54 biopsies exhibited positive nuclear staining for p53, indicating an abnormal accumulation of the protein. This staining was graded according to the number of positive cells per high-power field. Positive immunohistochemical staining for p53 in the tumor cell nuclei did not correlate with the patient's outcome. Significant correlates of improved patient survival were the presentation with epilepsy in the absence of a neurological deficit (P = 0.005) and the surgeon's performance of a macroscopically complete surgical resection of the tumor (P = 0.01).