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Diffuse astrocytomas have a median survival of 6–8 years. However, in a minority of cases that are histologically low grade, progression is rapid, leading to death within 2 years. Loss of p16, retinoblastoma protein, and deleted-in-colon-carcinoma protein expression, and monosomy of chromosome 10 have been shown to occur in malignant astrocytic tumors. We have investigated the prognostic value of expression of these markers, using techniques applicable in many histopathology laboratories, in diffuse astrocytomas that are histologically low grade. Paraffin sections from 71 diffuse, supratentorial, low-grade astrocytomas, from patients with at least 8-year survival data, were immunostained with antibodies to p16, deleted-in-colon-carcinoma protein, p53, Ki67, and retinoblastoma protein. In situ hybridization with a digoxigenin-labeled probe to chromosome 10 was used to assess chromosomal loss. In most cases there was immunostaining of virtually all tumor cell nuclei with antibodies to p16 and retinoblastoma protein. Three of the 68 tumors in which assessment of p16 was possible included discrete foci with lack of detectable immunoreactivity in tumor cells. The three patients concerned had a significantly shortened median survival (1.1 years vs 4.4 years in those without loss of p16; p <0.01). In six of the 61 cases where assessment of retinoblastoma protein was possible, <70% of tumor cell nuclei showed immunoreactivity. These six patients had a shorter survival (4.0 years) than had the remaining patients (5.4 years), although this difference was not statistically significant. The tumor from one of these patients included areas where only 36% of tumor cells showed retinoblastoma protein immunoreactivity, and this patient survived only 1.5 years. Tumors showing loss of both p16 and retinoblastoma were not seen. p53 and deleted-in-colon-carcinoma protein expression was highly variable and did not correlate with survival. Tumors with monosomy for chromosome 10 were not identified. Both polyploidy and the Ki67 labeling index were significantly associated with the p53 labeling index but not with survival. Focal loss of p16 or retinoblastoma protein is demonstrable in approximately 5% and 10% of diffuse low-grade diffuse astrocytomas, respectively. Tumors with focal loss of immunoreactivity for these proteins are associated with shorter survival than those without, suggesting that immunohistochemistry for p16 and retinoblastoma protein may be a useful adjunct to other methods for assessing the prognosis of astrocytomas.