Seventy-three consecutive cases of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) diagnosed and managed in Queen Mary Hospital over a 10-year period from 1985 to 1994 were retrospectively analysed for their presenting features and treatment outcome. The 48 boys and 25 girls ranged in age from 0.4 to 14.2 years (median: 4.3 years). Bone and joint pain was a relatively common presenting feature besides fever, hepatosplenomegaly and lymphadenopathy. Immunophenotyping of blast cells showed: 51 B-cell precursor ALL, one B-ALL, 10 T-ALL and three myeloid-antigen positive ALL. Eight cases were unclassified since immunophenotyping had not been performed. Out of the 73 patients, treatment outcome was analysed in 20 cases treated with UKALL-VIII regimen and 28 cases treated with either the UKALL-XI regimen or the Hong Kong Children Cancer Study Group (HKCCSG) protocol which was modelled upon UKALL-XI. Although complete remission rates were similar between the two groups, patients treated with the former regimen that was less intensified suffered more relapses than the latter (56 per cent versus 21 per cent, P = 0.04). There were, however, no significant differences both in event-free survival (38.2 +/- 11.2 per cent versus 71.3 +/- 9.3 per cent, P = 0.12) and overall survival (70.0 +/- 10.2 per cent versus 79.6 +/- 8.3 per cent, P = 0.41) between the two groups at 3 years by long-rank test. With the use of risk-directed therapy and improved supportive care, two-thirds of our patients are able to enjoy long-term event-free survival.