The t(12;21) (p13;q22) is observed in approximately 20-25% of childhood B-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cases in both Asian and Caucasian populations. This translocation results in the fusion of TEL, a recently described ETS-like gene on 12p13, and AML1, which was shown to be involved in the formation of fusion genes with ETO and EVI1 in myeloid leukemias. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis are useful in detecting this translocation which is not readily identified with routine cytogenetic techniques. The t(12;21) is associated with a distinct subgroup of patients characterized by an age between 1 and 10 years, an early B immunophenotype, and a good prognosis. A high incidence of the deletion of non-translocated TEL is another characteristic of leukemic cells with this translocation. TEL-AML1 hybrid protein thought to be critical in leukemogenesis possesses the HLH domain of TEL fused to almost the entire AML1 protein, although the detailed mechanisms of leukemogenesis remain obscure. RT-PCR combined with FISH analysis of posttreatment samples appears to be useful in detecting early relapse or minimal residual disease and thus, is expected to optimize the treatment strategy for patients with t(12;21).