Mice with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) were injected intravenously with primary bone marrow blasts from 12 children with newly diagnosed t(4;11)(q21;q23) acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Blasts from eight patients caused overt disseminated leukemia, whereas blasts from the other four patients produced occult leukemia that was detectable only by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique. Only one patient among eight whose blasts caused disseminated leukemia in SCID mice remains alive and disease-free at 48.4 months postdiagnosis. In contrast, three of the other four patients whose blasts did not cause overt leukemia in SCID mice remain alive and disease-free at 6.1, 23.6, and 35.9 months, respectively. Thus, the occurrence of overt leukemia in SCID mice may be a predictor of patients' disease-free survival. The described SCID mouse model system may prove useful for designing more effective treatment strategies against therapy- refractory t(4;11) ALL.