The goal of this phase II multicenter clinical trial was to evaluate a new intensive chemotherapy program for adults with untreated acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and to examine prospectively the impact of clinical and biologic characteristics on the outcome. One hundred ninety-seven eligible and evaluable patients (16 to 80 years of age; median, 32 years of age) received cyclophosphamide, daunorubicin, vincristine, prednisone, and L-asparaginase; 167 patients (85%) achieved a complete remission (CR), 13 (7%) had refractory disease, and 17 (9%) died during induction. A higher CR rate was observed in younger patients (94% for those < 30 years old, 85% for those 30 to 59 years old, and 39% for those > or = 60 years old, P < .001) and in those who had a mediastinal mass (100%) or blasts with a T-cell immunophenotype. Eighty percent of B-lineage and 97% of T-cell ALL patients achieved a CR (P = .01). The coexpression of myeloid antigens did not affect the response rate or duration. Seventy percent of those with cytogenetic or molecular evidence of the Philadelphia (Ph) chromosome and 84% of those without such evidence achieved a CR (P = .11). Patients in remission received multiagent consolidation treatment, central nervous system prophylaxis, late intensification, and maintenance chemotherapy for a total of 24 months. After a median follow-up time of 43 months, the median survival for all 197 patients is 36 months; the median remission duration for the 167 CR patients is 29 months. Favorable pretreatment characteristics relative to remission duration or survival are younger age, the presence of a mediastinal mass or lymphadenopathy, a white blood cell count (WBC) less than 30,000/microL, L1 morphology, T or TMy immunophenotype, and the absence of the Ph chromosome. The estimates of the proportion surviving at 3 years are 69% for patients less than 30 years old, 39% for those 30 to 59 years old, 89% for those who had a mediastinal mass, 59% with WBC less than 30,000/microL, 63% with L1 morphology, 69% for T or TMy antigen expression, and 62% for those who lack the Ph chromosome. Fifteen patients (8%) had no unfavorable prognostic factors and have an estimated probability of survival at 5 years of 100% (95% confidence interval, 77% to 100%). This intensive chemotherapy regimen produces a high remission rate and a high proportion of durable remissions in adults with ALL.