High-dose (HD) cytosine arabinoside (ARA-C) is more effective treatment than conventional-dose ARA-C regimens for patients with relapsed acute nonlymphocytic leukemia (ANLL). We report here that HD ARA-C given during the first remission of ANLL has resulted in long remission durations and a high proportion of patients who survive more than three years free of disease. From August 1979 to September 1983, 36 adult patients with ANLL in first remission received one to three courses of HD ARA-C (3 g/m2 by one-hour infusion every 12 hours for 12 doses on days 1 through 6) alone or with daunorubicin (30 mg/m2 for two or three doses on days 7 through 9). Three patients died of sepsis or hemorrhage during consolidation, and 14 patients have relapsed from five to 48 months after diagnosis. The remaining 19 patients are in continued complete remission (CCR) from 11 to 62 months. Denoting all deaths in remission as relapse, the actuarial probability of CCR is 42% at 62 months, with an apparent plateau in the survival curve. Of the first 22 patients treated, ten remain in CCR from 37 to 62 months with no therapy for at least three years. Due to its heightened anti-leukemic activity, HD ARA-C allows brief but effective consolidation of ANLL in first remission, with long-term disease-free survival comparable to other approaches.