BACKGROUND: t(12;21)(p1 3;q22), the most frequent chromosomal translocation found in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), occurs in approximately 25% of B-lineage ALL cases and has been claimed to carry a good prognosis. PROCEDURE: As part of the Nordic Society of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology (NOPHO) ALL-MRD 95 study, which includes children from Iceland, Norway, and Denmark diagnose d with ALL, patients were screened for the presence of t(12; 21) by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) at diagnosis, and their residual disease was quantified after 4 weeks of induction therapy (prednisolone, vincristine, doxorubicin, i.t. methotrexate) by a competitive, clone-specific, semi-nested PCR analysis. RESULTS: Among 96 children diagnosed with ALL, and quantified for post induction residual disease, 32 were t(12;21)-positive. The median residual disease was similar for B-precursor ALL patients with and without t(12;21) (0.009 vs. 0.03%, P = 0.12). CONCLUSIONS: Al though patients with t(12;21)-positive ALL have been claimed to have a good outcome, these data indicate that this does not reflect a high sensitivity to prednisolone, vincristine, and doxorubicin given during induction therapy.