Donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI) is commonly used to treat leukemia relapse following stem cell transplantation. In florid relapse, however, the efficacy of DLI is limited with substantial risk of severe graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). Here, we develop a novel risk-adapted strategy characterized by pre-emptive DLI initiated at the time of mixed chimerism, a small starting dose based on donor source, dose-escalation guided by real-time chimerism monitoring and withholding of DLI immediately in patients achieving full donor chimerism. A total of 178 DLIs were given to 38 patients with mixed chimerism; thereafter, 33 patients (86.8%) had donor chimerism successfully increased, including 30 (78.9%) who had chimerism fully converted back to 100% donor. Cumulative incidence of relapse was significantly lower (P=0.00004) and overall survival higher (P=0.0003) in patients with chimerism fully corrected as compared with those of patients whose chimerism remained mixed. Only 13.2% of the patients developed acute grade III-IV GvHD with no associated mortality. In conclusion, the risk-adapted DLI strategy is useful in minimizing the risk of childhood leukemia relapse, GvHD and death.