Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in mouse bone marrow are located in specialized niches as single cells. During homeostasis, signals from this environment keep some HSCs dormant, which preserves long-term self-renewal potential, while other HSCs actively self renew to maintain haematopoiesis. In response to haematopoietic stress, dormant HSCs become activated and rapidly replenish the haematopoietic system. Interestingly, three factors - granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, interferon-alpha and arsenic trioxide - have been shown to efficiently activate dormant stem cells and thereby could break their resistance to anti-proliferative chemotherapeutics. Thus, we propose that two-step strategies could target resistant leukaemic stem cells by priming tumours with activators of dormancy followed by chemotherapy or targeted therapies.