Mutation of p53 is one of the most common genetic abnormalities detected in up to 81% of cases of ovarian cancer. To evaluate the use of plasma DNA analysis as a method for somatic mutation screening, we measured the presence of p53 mutations in DNA isolated from plasma and cancer tissue from patients with ovarian cancer. We analyzed the plasma DNA for the presence of p53 mutations (exons 5-8). Of 27 cases of ovarian cancer, 12 cases (44%) had mutations of p53 in cancer tissue. In two of the 12 cases (16.7%), identical mutations were detected in DNA of their preoperative plasma. In our follow-up of the two patients with p53 mutations in their plasma, mutant DNA was undetectable in their plasma after surgery. In one case, the p53 mutation re-surfaced in their plasma 16 months after surgery, and the patient died 2 months later. We have shown that tumor-derived DNA can be detected in the plasma of some patients with ovarian cancer, particularly in those with more advanced stage.