4′-Demethoxydaunorubicin (idarubicin [IDR]) is a new anthracycline that differs from its parent compound by the deletion of a methoxy group at position 4 of the chromophore ring. This minor structural modification results in a more lipophilic compound with a unique metabolite that has a prolonged plasma half-life as well as in vitro and in vivo antileukemia activity. To determine its activity in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), 130 consecutive adult patients between the ages of 16 and 60 with newly diagnosed disease were randomized in a single institution study to receive either IDR in combination with cytosine arabinoside (Ara-C) or standard therapy with daunorubicin (DNR) and Ara- C. The trial was analyzed using the O′Brien-Fleming multiple testing design that allowed for periodic inspection of the data at specific patient accession points. After accrual of 60 patients per arm, analysis showed that patients who received IDR/Ara-C had a superior response compared with those who received standard therapy: 48 of 60 patients (80%) achieved complete remission on the former arm compared with 35 of 60 patients on the latter (58%, P = .005). Logistic regression analysis of factors associated with complete response indicated that treatment with IDR/Ara-C offered a significant advantage to patients who presented with a high initial white blood cell count compared with treatment with DNR/Ara-C. The degree of marrow aplasia was approximately the same on each arm as was nonhematologic toxicity. Overall survival for patients on the IDR/Ara-C arm was 19.5 months compared with 13.5 months on the DNR/Ara-C arm (P = .025) at a median follow-up of 2.5 years. We conclude that IDR/Ara-C can effectively replace standard therapy with DNR/Ara-C in adult patients less than age 60 with newly diagnosed AML.