It is widely recognized that various oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes contribute to tumorigenesis and progression of osteosarcomas. However, whether genetic alternations enable us to predict the prognosis of patients with osteosarcomas is unclear. Southern blotting and polymerase chain reaction/single strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) analyses were performed to search for MDM2, ras family and p53 gene alterations in 17 patients with high-grade osteosarcomas. Amplification of the MDM2 gene was found in three tumors, two of which were obtained from a regional lymph node metastasis and the other from a locally advanced lesion. Point mutations of the p53 gene were found in exons 4 and 5 in two tumors each. One of the four tumors with p53 mutations was obtained from a lymph node metastasis, one from a recurrent tumor and another from the primary tumor of a patient who developed lung metastases. Coexistence of MDM2 amplification with point mutation of the p53 gene was observed in two tumors. A point mutation of the K-ras oncogene was detected at codon 13 in two tumors. MDM2 amplification and p53 mutation may reflect tumor progression, although no correlation between alteration and response to chemotherapy or patient survival was demonstrated.