Expression of survivin, a member of the inhibitor-of-apoptosis (IAP) family, is elevated in fetal tissues and in various human cancers originating in the breast, lung, prostate, colon, pancreas, and stomach. Since overexpression of the survivin gene has been linked to poor patient survival in several cancers, survivin may be an important prognostic marker. Mechanisms up-regulating survivin gene expression in cancer are poorly understood. Recently, wild-type p53 was found to repress expression of the survivin gene by binding to the survivin promoter, thereby inhibiting promoter activity. Further, loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at 17p13 distal to the p53 gene is associated with more aggressive behavior of breast cancers. We therefore tested the hypothesis that not only p53 gene mutation but also LOH at 17p13 can up-regulate survivin expression in breast cancer. Survivin mRNA expression was greater in cancers than in uninvolved tissues (p < 0.0001). Mutations of the p53 gene were detected in 5 of 25 tumors; higher survivin gene expression was evident in these. LOH at the D17S938 locus (17p13.1) was found in 10 of 25 tumors, and most of these also showed increased survivin gene expression. Thus expression of survivin may be regulated not only by p53 but additionally by a putative tumor suppressor gene located at 17p13 distal to the p53 gene.