We investigated the association of survivin expression with prognosis and other apoptosis-related biological factors in 110 primary ovarian cancer patients admitted to the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Catholic University of Rome. Immunohistochemistry was performed on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded sections by using polyclonal antibody ab469 for survivin, and mouse monoclonal antibodies (clone 124 and DO-7), for bcl-2 and p53, respectively. Cytoplasmic survivin immunoreaction was observed in 84.5% cases, while nuclear survivin immunostaining was observed in 29.1% cases. We failed to find any relationship between cytoplasmic survivin positivity rate and any of the parameters examined. Serous tumours showed a lower percentage of nuclear survivin positivity with respect to other histotypes (20.5 vs 48.6%, respectively; P-value=0.004). The percentage of nuclear survivin positivity was higher in cases subjected to primary tumour cytoreduction (43.5%), with respect to patients subjected to exploratory laparotomy (20%) (P=0.024). Bcl-2 and p53 were, respectively, expressed in 27.3 and 60.0% of the cases and their expression was not correlated with survivin status. During the follow-up period, progression and death of disease were observed in 68 (61.8%) and 53 (48.2%) cases, respectively. There was no difference in time to progression and overall survival according to survivin status in ovarian cancer patients. In conclusion, in our experience, the immunohistochemical assessment of survivin status does not seem to be helpful in the prognostic characterisation of ovarian cancer. A more in depth investigation of the complex physiology of divergent survivin variants is needed in order to clarify the biological and the clinical role of differentially located survivin isoforms.