To determine whether steroid hormone receptor expression is clinically relevant in ovarian cancer, cytoplasmic and nuclear estrogen (ER) and progesterone (PR) receptor levels have been measured and their concentration calculated by Scatchard analysis. Of 89 samples from patients with non-pretreated epithelial ovarian cancer, 33% were ER-positive, PR-positive (ER+PR+) and 40% ER-negative, PR-negative (ER-PR-); 20% were ER+PR-, and 7% ER-PR+. There was no correlation between receptor status and patient age, menopausal status, or tumor grade, although serous tumors were more likely to be ER+. The incidence of PR+ tumors was highest in early disease and decreased with increasing International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) stage. Survival of patients with advanced disease (FIGO Stages IIC, III, or IV) was significantly prolonged by optimal initial cytoreductive surgery (P = 0.002), platinum therapy (P = 0.003), and tumor expression of PR (P = 0.009). On multivariate analysis, PR positivity was still associated with improved survival, although this did not retain statistical significance (P = 0.09).