Existing in vitro culture technology does not permit the routine propagation of most human myeloid leukemias. Previous work has shown the usefulness of mice with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) for the growth of human lymphoblastic leukemia. We show here that human myeloid cell lines and bone marrow samples from patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and blast crisis of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) also grow in SCID mice. Human AML or CML cell lines (three of three lines tested) grew in the bone marrow and peripheral blood of the mice after intravenous (IV) inoculation in a pattern closely resembling human AML. To define the best conditions for the growth of primary human myeloid leukemia cells, samples were transplanted into mice at several alternative sites. Using flow cytometry and Southern analysis, mice were analyzed at defined intervals up to 36 weeks after transplantation for the presence of human cells in various tissues. For four of four patients with AML and two of two patients with blast crisis of CML, myeloblasts grew locally at the site of implantation and were detected in the murine hematopoietic tissues. In contrast, marrow implants from patients in the chronic phase of CML (six patients) showed infrequent and limited myeloid growth in the mice. These findings demonstrate that the SCID mouse is a reproducible system for the propagation of blastic human myeloid leukemias. The differential growth of early- versus late-phase CML suggests that the SCID mouse may be a useful assay for identifying biologically aggressive leukemias early in their clinical presentation.