Combination chemotherapy is frequently used in the therapy of advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), but late complications are rarely recognized because of the short survival of most patients. Of 119 patients with advanced NSCLC treated with cisplatin and other drugs, four patients developed acute nonlymphocytic leukemia (ANLL). All four patients received etoposide and cisplatin with or without vindesine. Leukemia was diagnosed at 13, 19, 28, and 35 months after start of treatment. Three patients had morphologic and/or cytogenetic features of acute leukemia with significant monoblastic involvement; the fourth patient had trilineage dysplasia and cytogenetic abnormalities more commonly associated with therapy-related leukemia. Detailed analysis of the subgroup who survived longer than 1 year (24 patients) suggests that high cumulative doses of etoposide are leukemogenic; the median etoposide dose was 6,795 mg/m2 (first year only) in the four leukemic patients compared with 3,025 mg/m2 in the 20 nonleukemic patients (P less than .01). The rate of ANLL was 0.30 per person-year after the first year (95% confidence limits 0.11 to 0.90), with a cumulative risk of 15% +/- 11% at 2 years, and 44% +/- 24% at 2.5 years. We conclude that high doses of etoposide are potentially leukemogenic, and can induce a syndrome with features of acute monoblastic leukemia de novo that is distinct from other secondary leukemias.