The complex chromosomal aberrations found in therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia (t-AML) suggest that the DNA double-strand break (DSB) response may be altered. In this study we examined the DNA DSB response of primary bone marrow cells from t-AML patients and performed next-generation sequencing of 37 canonical homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) DNA repair genes, and a subset of DNA damage response genes using tumor and paired normal DNA obtained from t-AML patients. Our results suggest that the majority of t-AML patients (11 of 15) have tumor-cell intrinsic, functional dysregulation of their DSB response. Distinct patterns of abnormal DNA damage response in myeloblasts correlated with acquired genetic alterations in TP53 and the presence of inferred chromothripsis. Furthermore, the presence of trisomy 8 in tumor cells was associated with persistently elevated levels of DSBs. Although tumor-acquired point mutations or small indels in canonical HR and NHEJ genes do not appear to be a dominant means by which t-AML leukemogenesis occurs, our functional studies suggest that an abnormal response to DNA damage is a common finding in t-AML.