Banded bone marrow chromosome analyses have been done on 83 unselected patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Seven patients, all with non-T, non-B ALL, had a translocation involving the long arms of chromosomes 4 and 11. Five of these patients, 4 children and 1 adult, were first studied at diagnosis, and the t(4;11) (q21;q23) was the only karyotypic abnormality. All 5 presented with a marked leukocytosis (greater than 150 X 10(9)/liter). Four of these 5 patients achieved a complete remission following the same intensive treatment regimen; however, remission duration and survival were very short (medians 2.5 and 8 mo, respectively). The fifth patient is currently receiving induction chemotherapy. The remaining 2 patients, both adults, were studied in relapse only, and had other karyotypic abnormalities in addition to the t(4;11). One of these relapse patients was a female whose clinical presentation and course were similar to those above. The last patient was a male who presented with a leukocyte count of 7 X 10(9)/liter and maintained an initial complete remission for 37 mo. Our data suggest that patients who have a t(4;11) (q21;q23) at the time of diagnosis of ALL have a poor prognosis with conventional therapy and require a new therapeutic approach.