We analyzed the prognostic value of p53 mutations for response to chemotherapy and survival in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Mutations were detected by single-stranded conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis of exons 4 to 10 of the P53 gene, and confirmed by direct sequencing. A p53 mutation was found in 16 of 107 (15%) AML, 20 of 182 (11%) MDS, and 9 of 81 (11%) CLL tested. In AML, three of nine (33%) mutated cases and 66 of 81 (81%) nonmutated cases treated with intensive chemotherapy achieved complete remission (CR) (P = .005) and none of five mutated cases and three of six nonmutated cases treated by low-dose Ara C achieved CR or partial remission (PR) (P = .06). Median actuarial survival was 2.5 months in mutated cases, and 15 months in nonmutated cases (P < 10(-5)). In the MDS patients who received chemotherapy (intensive chemotherapy or low-dose Ara C), 1 of 13 (8%) mutated cases and 23 of 38 (60%) nonmutated cases achieved CR or PR (P = .004), and median actuarial survival was 2.5 and 13.5 months, respectively (P < 10(-5)). In all MDS cases (treated and untreated), the survival difference between mutated cases and nonmutated cases was also highly significant. In CLL, 1 of 8 (12.5%) mutated cases treated by chemotherapy (chlorambucil and/or CHOP and/or fludarabine) responded, as compared with 29 of 36 (80%) nonmutated cases (P = .02). In all CLL cases, survival from p53 analysis was significantly shorter in mutated cases (median 7 months) than in nonmutated cases (median not reached) (P < 10(-5)). In 35 of the 45 mutated cases of AML, MDS, and CLL, cytogenetic analysis or SSCP and sequence findings showed loss of the nonmutated P53 allele. Our findings show that p53 mutations are a strong prognostic indicator of response to chemotherapy and survival in AML, MDS, and CLL. The usual association of p53 mutations to loss of the nonmutated P53 allele, in those disorders, ie, to absence of normal p53 in tumor cells, suggests that p53 mutations could induce drug resistance, at least in part, by interfering with normal apoptotic pathways in tumor cells.