We have identified an identical reciprocal translocation between the long arms of chromosomes 3 and 21 with breakpoints at bands 3q26 and 21q22, [t(3;21)(q26;q22)], in the malignant cells from five adult patients with therapy-related myelodysplastic syndrome (t-MDS) or acute myeloid leukemia (t-AML). Primary diagnoses were Hodgkin's disease in two patients and ovarian carcinoma, breast cancer, and polycythemia vera in one patient each. Patients had been treated with chemotherapy including an alkylating agent for their primary disease 1 to 18 years before the development of t-MDS or t-AML. We have not observed the t(3;21) in over 1,500 patients with a myelodysplastic syndrome or acute myeloid leukemia arising de novo or in over 1,000 patients with lymphoid malignancies. We have previously reported that the t(3;21) occurs in Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Thus, the t(3;21) appears to be limited to t-MDS/t-AML and CML, both of which represent malignant disorders of an early hematopoietic precursor cell. These results provide a new focus for the study of therapy-related leukemia at the molecular level.