Based on our previous demonstration that quinine could be used clinically to reverse P-glycoprotein-mediated resistance, we designed a multicenter, randomized trial aiming to determine whether quinine would improve the survival of adult patients (15-60 years old) with de novo acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). These patients randomly received (n = 213) or did not receive (n = 212) a 30 mg/kg/day continuous intravenous infusion of quinine in combination with induction chemotherapy combining idarubicine and cytarabine and, depending on bone marrow examination at day 20, an additional course of cytarabine and mitoxantrone. The mean steady-state quinine concentration was 7.8 mg/L and the mean multidrug resistance reversing activity of serum was 1.96. Complete remission (CR) was obtained in 344 patients (80.9%) without significant influence of quinine. Of the patients in complete remission, 82 were assigned to receive HLA-matched bone marrow transplants, whereas 262 were assigned to 2 courses of intensive consolidation chemotherapy, with or without quinine, depending on initial randomization. The 4-year actuarial overall survival (OS) of the 425 eligible patients was 42.0% +/- 2.5%, without significant influence of quinine. Of 160 patients who could be studied, 54 demonstrated rhodamine 123 efflux. In these patients, quinine significantly improved the CR rate from 12 of 25 (48.0%) to 24 of 29 (82.8%) (P =.01). However, there was no significant difference in OS. Neither mdr1 gene nor P-glycoprotein expression influenced the outcome. We conclude that quinine does not improve the survival of adult patients with de novo AML, even though it improves CR rate in a small subgroup of patients defined by rhodamine 123 efflux.