Ovarian carcinomas that have a distinctive natural history with early dissemination are particularly problematic. The aim of this immunohistochemical study was to assess whether the nm23-H1 gene product, which in some tumors shows inverse association with metastatic potential, could serve as a prognostic marker for ovarian carcinomas. The study, based on 73 benign and 54 malignant ovarian tumors, showed clear differences in the frequency of nm23-H1-positive samples, the intensity of staining and the histological localization of this protein. Differences were observed between normal ovary samples and benign lesions as well as between benign tumors and ovarian carcinomas and were highly significant. Furthermore, carcinomas that had detectable metastasis at the time of surgery were negative for nm23-H1 protein more frequently than those that did not. Although this is a prospective study in which collection of clinical data is ongoing, the results strongly suggest that nm23-H1 may serve as a potentially valuable marker for ovarian tumors.