Chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy are established measures in treatment protocols of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). However, we still lack reliable predictive markers for the response to radio- and chemotherapy. The p53 pathway is involved in stress response and thus might influence chemo-/radiosensitivity. Using 29 HNSCC cell lines previously characterized for p53 mutations, we simultaneously analyzed several key players in the p53 pathway by RT-PCR, transcript sequencing and immunohistochemistry, and investigated their association with chemosensitivity and radiosensitivity. Cell lines with p53 mutations were slightly more sensitive to cisplatin than those with wild-type p53. The type of mutation did not influence radio- or chemosensitivity. p14(ARF), an activator of p53, was lost or mutated in all cell lines. Three cell lines showed overexpression of HDM-2, a major negative regulator of p53; however, HDM-2 levels did not correlate with radio- or chemosensitivity. HPV-16 oncoproteins were detected in one highly chemoresistant cell line. Our findings suggest that molecular events resulting in the inactivation of the p53 pathway occur in all HNSCC cell lines. However, single alterations in the p53 pathway are not reliable predictors for the response to radio- or chemotherapy in HNSCC.