Timed sequencing of cycles of induction chemotherapy in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has been proposed as a way to achieve maximal leukemic cell kill through recruitment and synchronization of residual neoplastic cells. Furthermore, whether intensive induction therapy should be continued in the presence of profound myelosuppression is an important question. The Children's Cancer Group (CCG) conducted a prospective randomized trial in which 589 patients with AML were randomized at diagnosis to one of two induction approaches involving a 4-day cycle of five active chemotherapeutic agents, with the second cycle administered either 10 days after the first cycle, despite low or dropping blood counts (intensive timing), or 14 days or later from the beginning of the first cycle, depending on bone marrow status (standard timing). All patients achieving remission received a total of four cycles of induction therapy. They were then allocated to allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) if a compatible family donor was present or randomized to aggressive nonmyeloablative therapy or to myeloablative therapy with purged autologous BMT rescue. The three postremission arms remain coded. Induction success and median days to complete induction were similar for the 295 patients randomized to the intensive timing arm (75%, 99 days) compared with the 294 patients randomized to the standard timing arm (70%, 105 days; P = .18 for remission). However, a marked improvement in outcome was demonstrated in patients randomized to the intensive timing arm, with an actuarial event-free survival at 3 years of 42% +/- 7% (95% confidence interval [CI]) versus 27% +/- 6% for patients on the standard timing arm (P = .0005). Disease-free survival results at 3 years from the end of induction were superior for patients receiving intensively timed induction therapy (N = 211), 55% +/- 9% versus 37% +/- 9% for standard timing patients (N = 195, P = .0002), with a median follow-up from achieving remission of 28 months. Superior results were documented for patients receiving intensive timing irrespective of the postremission therapy to which they were allocated. Intensively timed induction therapy for patients with AML markedly improves event-free survival, even for patients undergoing myeloablative therapy with BMT rescue. Without controlling for the type of induction therapy received, results of various BMT studies in AML comparing different preparative regimens will be difficult to interpret.