Heat-shock protein 27 (hsp27) is one of the small heat-shock proteins. Its expression in ovarian- and breast-cancer cell lines has been associated with resistance to cisplatin and doxorubicin. In addition, hsp27 expression appears to facilitate cellular growth, differentiation and motility. In several human carcinomas, hsp27 expression might also be related to worse prognosis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prognostic value of hsp27 expression in patients with ovarian carcinoma in relation to their response to chemotherapy and overall survival. Hsp27 expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry in 77 patients with ovarian carcinoma stage IC-IV. All patients received cisplatin- and doxorubicin-based chemotherapy and had long-term follow-up. In 30 patients, paired tumour samples were available, obtained before and after chemotherapy. Hsp27 immunostaining was positive in 86% of patients before and in 72% of patients after chemotherapy. Hsp27 expression was not related to any clinicopathologic factor, including previously determined p53 expression. Univariate analysis showed that, in stage-III and -IV patients, younger age, no residual tumour after first laparotomy, < or = 1 litre ascites, response to first-line chemotherapy and absence of hsp27 expression were associated with longer median progression-free survival. However, in multivariate analysis, only age, ascites and response to chemotherapy retained independent prognostic value.