Recent literature suggests that c-erbB-2 and p53 alteration might be linked to drug resistance. This study investigates the relation of c-erbB-2 oncoprotein overexpression and p53 protein accumulation with prognosis in patients with node-positive breast cancer (NPBC) and assesses the modifying effect of these markers on response to short (1-10 courses) or prolonged (> 10 courses) adjuvant chemotherapy. This study is based on 458 patients with NPBC diagnosed from 1980 to 1986, with an average of 10 years of follow-up. Marker expression was evaluated by immunohistochemical analysis on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded material with antibodies to c-erbB-2 and p53. c-erbB-2 was expressed in 17.2% of the cases, and 19.1% of the tumors stained positively for p53. By multivariate analysis, women with prolonged adjuvant chemotherapy had better survival than those with a short course of chemotherapy among patients whose tumor lacked c-erbB-2 oncoprotein expression (P = .0245) or p53 protein accumulation (P = .0477). Prolonged chemotherapy, however, was associated with little or no change in survival among patients whose tumor expressed those markers. The present study adds support to the hypothesis linking c-erbB-2 and p53 expression to drug resistance.