Abnormal p53 protein accumulation is typically defined as present when greater than 5 or 10% of cancer cells stain positively. We present a novel approach whereby immunopositivity is defined when 15 or more cells within a 300 x 400-micrometer(2) field exhibit p53 protein accumulation; a feature that we have called "clustered" staining. We assessed p53 immunostaining of moderately differentiated, clinically localized prostate cancers derived from two patient groups: those without cancer recurrence 5 years after radical prostatectomy, and those in whom cancer had recurred following radical prostatectomy. Clustered p53 immunopositivity was present in 10 (63%) of 16 patients in the recurrent group and in only 7 (21%) of 33 in the nonrecurrent group. Clustered p53 staining was clearly associated with cancer recurrence (P < 0.01). This refinement of a commonly used assay may help define the biological aggressiveness of a cancer.