Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression and microvessel density were studied in cases of advanced epithelial ovarian carcinoma to evaluate their usefulness as prognostic variables. Tumor samples from 18 patients with advanced stage serous epithelial ovarian cancer were evaluated for VEGF expression by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis. Immunohistochemical study of corresponding archival tissues with an antibody to von Willebrand factor (vWF; FVIII-RA) was used for tumor microvessel count determinations. The correlation of VEGF expression and mean microvessel counts was determined by an unpaired t-test. Survival analysis for known prognostic factors and VEGF expression was performed. Survival distributions were calculated by the product limit of Kaplan and Meier and significant differences between distributions were analyzed with a log rank test. From the RT-PCR analysis of tumor VEGF expression, 12 samples were found to be strongly positive, whereas six samples had low/negative VEGF expression. The median survival was 60 months for the VEGF-low/negative group and 28 months for the VEGF-positive group (P = 0.058). Other prognostic variables had minimal impact on survival, i.e. age < 65 years (P = 0.873), FIGO stage (P = 0.06), grade (P = 0.236) and debulking status (P = 0.842). Fourteen of 18 tumor specimens were suitable for microvessel counting. The mean microvessel counts of the VEGF-positive group and the VEGF-negative group were 27/hpf and 35/hpf, respectively (P = 0.16). In this preliminary analysis, high VEGF expression in epithelial ovarian carcinomas was associated with poor overall survival. Further study will be necessary to elucidate the lack of association of VEGF expression and tumor microvessel counts.