Following the paradigm set by STI571, protein tyrosine kinase inhibitors are emerging as a promising class of drugs, capable of modulating intracellular signaling and demonstrating therapeutic potential for the treatment of proliferative diseases. Although the majority of chronic phase CML patients treated with STI571 respond, some patients, especially those with more advanced disease, relapse. This article reviews the reasons for relapse and, in particular, analyses resistance resulting from Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase domain mutations at the molecular level. Arguments are based upon the structure of the STI571-Abl complex, which is compared to the crystal structures of PD173955-Abl and PD180970-Abl, which bind to the kinase differently. Strategies to potentially circumvent or overcome resistance are discussed.