TP53 is the most commonly altered tumor-suppressor gene in cancer and is currently being tested in Phase II/III gene replacement trials. Many tumors contain wild-type TP53 sequence with elevated MDM2 protein levels, targeting p53 for degradation. These tumors are more refractory to treatment with exogenous wild-type p53. Here we generate a recombinant adenovirus expressing a p53 variant, rAd-p53 (d 13-19), that is deleted for the amino acid sequence necessary for MDM2 binding (amino acids 13-19). We compared the apoptotic activity of rAd-p53 (d 13-19) with that of a recombinant adenovirus expressing wild-type p53 (rAd-p53) in cell lines that differ in endogenous p53 status. rAd-p53 (d 13-19) caused higher levels of apoptosis in p53 wild-type tumor lines compared with wild-type p53 treatment, as measured by annexin V-FITC staining. In p53-altered tumor lines, rAd-p53 (d 13-19) showed apoptotic activity similar to that seen with wild-type p53 treatment. In normal cells, no increase in cytopathicity was detected with rAd-p53 (d 13-19) compared with wild-type p53 treatment. This variant protein displayed synergy with chemotherapeutic agents to inhibit proliferation of ovarian and breast cell lines. The p53 variant showed greater antitumor activity in an established p53 wild-type tumor compared with treatment with wild-type p53. The p53 variant represents a means of expanding TP53 gene therapy to tumors that are resistant to p53 treatment due to the cellular responses to wild-type p53.