The probability of event-free survival of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) approaches 80% or more with the use of modern multiagent chemotherapeutic regimens. One major contribution to this success has been reduction of the rate of central nervous system (CNS) relapses to less than 5%. However, heterogeneity is observed with regard to the incidence of CNS relapse in homogenously treated patient populations. One potential explanation for this heterogeneity is variation in the genetic background of these populations. Glutathione S-transferase P1 and P-glycoprotein are implicated in resistance to a variety of chemotherapeutic agents and have been localized to the blood-brain barrier. In a matched case-control study, we investigated the associations between CNS relapse in childhood ALL and the presence of phenotypically relevant single nucleotide polymorphisms within the GSTP1 (codon 105 and 114) and MDR1 genes (ABCB1; coding for Pgp; exon 26, C3435T). Significant reductions in risk of CNS relapse were observed for patients homozygous for the GSTP1 Val105 allele as well as for patients with the MDR1 3435T/T or C/T genotype. For both genotypes, the effect was restricted to patients at intermediate or high risk of treatment failure. These results suggested a modulating role for host genetic variation in the development of CNS relapse in childhood ALL treated according to Berlin-Frankfurt-Münster protocols.