Several methods have been developed for the detection of minimal residual disease (MRD) in B cell tumors. Chromosomal translocations or the rearrangement of the immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) and T cell receptor genes are generally employed. We report a novel PCR method to detect MRD using IgH genes. IgH rearranged variable region (VDJ) were amplified from tumor specimens using consensus primers for variable and joining region genes. Complementarity-determining regions (CDR) were identified and used to generate tumor-specific primers. Two-round amplifications using primers derived from CDRs and joining or constant regions were performed for MRD detection. IgH nested-PCR approach was tested on a panel of 75 B cell tumors including acute lymphoblastic and chronic lymphocytic leukemias, non-Hodgkin's lymphomas and multiple myelomas. A VDJ sequence was obtained in 62 out of 75 cases (83%). Sensitivity using DNA or cDNA templates was 10(-5) and (-6), respectively. This method is specific and sensitive and provides a simple, non-radioactive approach for the evaluation of MRD in B cell tumors.