The p53 alteration is the most common alteration found in human cancer. It usually involves missense mutations that stabilize the p53 protein, which in turn accumulates, reaching levels detectable by immunohistochemistry. We and others have demonstrated that this overexpression of mutant p53 protein can induce a specific humoral response in cancer patients. This result was assessed by the presence of p53 antibodies in sera of patients with various types of cancers, whereas normal populations do not exhibit such antibodies. In lung cancer, the prevalence of p53 antibodies is high (30%) and is correlated with a very high rate of p53 mutations in this cancer (60-70%). We show that these antibodies are always present at the time of diagnosis, but never appear during tumour development, an observation strengthened by the fact that these antibodies are mostly IgG, corresponding to a secondary immune response. These results suggest that the humoral response is an early event and that p53 antibodies can be used as a precocious marker of p53 alteration before clinical manifestation of the disease.