The aim of this study was to assess the translational value of the quantitative assay of mutant p53 protein expression as both a prognostic indicator and a tool to determine appropriate therapy in a group of relatively innocuous and morphologically similar soft tissue sarcomas (STSs). Using a quantitative ELISA, we analyzed mutant p53 protein expression in 47 well-differentiated (grade I) STSs from patients treated in our Department of Surgical Oncology. Sixteen of 47 tumors expressed up to 42.6 ng mutant p53 protein/mg total protein. After a mean follow-up of 112 months, 63% of the patients with mutant p53+ tumors but only 16% of the patients with mutant p53- tumors had died (P < 0.01). Mutant p53 expression of >/=4.5 ng predicted even greater reduction in survival. These data show that mutant p53 expression identifies biologically aggressive grade I STSs. This molecular marker should have translational value as a tool to select those patients likely to benefit from aggressive multimodal therapy and intense surveillance.