Cytogenetic and DNA flow cytometric analyses of leukemic cells from 1,971 children with newly diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) identified stem lines with modal chromosome numbers greater than 65 in 26 patients (1.3%). Near-triploidy (66 to 73 chromosomes) was found in six cases and near-tetraploidy (82 to 94 chromosomes) in 20. A striking morphologic finding was the presence of clumped chromatin with grooved nuclei or Rieder cell formation in 20 cases. Other than a slight excess of the pre-B immunophenotype, the near-triploid cases did not appear to differ substantially from the general ALL population in clinical features. In contrast, near-tetraploid cases were more often associated with a T-cell immunophenotype (47% v 14%, P less than .001) and L2 morphology (30% v 22%, P less than .01), and were older at diagnosis (median age, 8.6 v 4.8 years, P = .01) than cases with other ploidies. Moreover, an unusually high proportion of near-tetraploid cases tested (6 of 15) expressed one or more of the myeloid-associated antigens CD13, CD15, and CD33. Despite the use of contemporary intensive chemotherapy and short follow-up for most patients, 6 of the 20 near- tetraploid cases have relapsed or died. This study suggests that the near-tetraploid subtype differs from other cases of hyperdiploid greater than 50 ALL, which have been associated with a favorable prognosis.