Methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP) deficiency in tumors can be therapeutically exploited for selective therapy. Many tumors lacking MTAP have been found to homozygously delete the chromosome 9p region containing the p16 tumor suppressor gene. Several methods have been used to detect chromosome 9p deletions in primary tumors. However, the accurate diagnosis of chromosome 9p deletions has been hampered by the presence of contaminating normal cells. In search of an accurate and sensitive diagnostic method, we have developed the real-time polymerase chain reaction assay using the TaqMan chemistry for quantitative detection of MTAP and p16 gene deletions. The assay's feasibility was tested with peripheral blood leukocytes (PBL) from 29 patients with adult T cell leukemia (ATL) previously analyzed with Southern blot analysis and validated on 39 PBL or bone marrow samples from childhood T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). Homozygous deletions of MTAP and p16 genes were detected respectively in six (20.7%) and eight (27.6%) of 29 ATL samples and in 15 (38.5%) and 23 (59%) of 39 T-ALL samples. The results correlated well with those of Southern blot analysis. It is of significance that the newly developed method can successfully detect homozygous deletions of these genes in samples containing as low as 33% blast cells. This rapid and sensitive method may be useful in searching for candidates for selective therapy targeting MTAP deficiency.