The proapoptotic gene bax is one of the downstream effectors of p53. The p53 binding site in the bax promoter is less responsive to p53 than the one in the growth arrest mediating gene p21. We introduced the bax gene under the control of 13 copies of a strong p53 responsive element into two ovarian cancer cell lines. The clones expressing bax under the control of p53 obtained from the wild-type (wt) p53-expressing cell line A2780 were much more sensitive (500- to 1000-fold) to the anticancer agent taxol than the parent cell line, with a higher percentage of cells undergoing apoptosis after drug treatment that was clearly p53-dependent and bax-mediated. Xenografts established in nude mice from one selected clone (A2780/C3) were more responsive to taxol than the parental line and the apoptotic response of A2780/C3 tumors was also increased after treatment. Introduction of the same plasmid into the p53 null SKOV3 cell line did not alter the sensitivity to taxol or the induction of apoptosis. In conclusion, driving the p53 response (after taxol treatment) by activating the bax gene rather than the p21 gene results in induction of massive apoptosis, in vitro and in vivo, and greatly enhances sensitivity to the drug.