Fas and Fas ligand (FasL) mediate T-lymphocyte cytotoxicity and may also induce physiologic apoptosis in breast epithelium associated with menstruation and cessation of lactation. Altered expression may thus be associated with breast carcinoma progression, chemotherapy response, or outcome. We performed a clinicopathologic analysis of immunohistochemical staining for Fas and FasL, as well as bax, bcl-2, glutathione-s-transferase, HER-2 (c-erbB-2), Ki67, P-glycoprotein, p53, and hormone receptors in pretreatment breast biopsies from 34 patients with locally advanced or limited stage IV breast carcinoma who received preoperative (neoadjuvant, primary) chemotherapy followed by lumpectomy or mastectomy. Neoplastic cells expressed Fas in 44% and FasL in 85% of pretreatment biopsies. Fas immunostaining was more frequent in tumors with larger size (p = 0.02) and pretreatment metastases (p = 0.03). Combined Fas and p53 staining correlated with pathologic complete response (4 of 5 CR versus 6 of 29 other, p = 0.02), as did combined p53 and lack of FasL staining (2 of 5 CR versus 0 of 29 other, p = 0.02), but individually Fas, p53, and lack of FasL immunostaining demonstrated only trends to correlation with CR (p = 0.13-0.15). No other biomarkers correlated with chemotherapeutic response. Neither FasL nor Fas expression was associated with the degree of peritumoral lymphocytic infiltration, or with expression of the other biomarkers. Recurrence was more frequent in Fas-expressing tumors (recurrent cases 7 of 10 Fas positive versus nonrecurrent 8 of 24 Fas positive, p = 0.07). In this patient group, Fas expression is associated with aggressive tumor behavior. Biomarker immunostaining correlates weakly with pathologic response to preoperative chemotherapy, in keeping with complex or heterogeneous tumor-drug interactions.