Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) can be considered as a paradigm for neoplasias that evolve through a multi-step process. CML is also one of the best examples of a disease that can be targeted by molecular therapy; however, the success of new 'designer drugs' is largely restricted to the chronic phase of the disease. If not cured at this stage, CML invariably progresses and transforms into an acute-type leukaemia undergoing a 'blast crisis'. The causes of this transformation are still poorly understood. What mechanisms underlie this progression, and are they shared by other common cancers?