We used a recently developed system for real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to determine residual disease in patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia. The expression of the Bcr-Abl hybrid oncogene was determined and normalized by using the PBGD housekeeping gene product as endogenous reference. The sensitivity and reproducibility of the assay was tested on cell line K562. A dilution of Bcr-Abl-positive cell line K562 remained positive at up to 250 fg of RNA. 10 copies of Bcr-Abl DNA in water could still be detected. The dynamic range of the method spanned six orders of magnitude. Analysis of 10 identical assays on K562 RNA resulted in a variation of 15%. To test the feasibility of normalization of Bcr-Abl dosage by the PBGD product, we compared the efficiencies of the RT-PCRs in 150 patient analyses. We concluded that PBGD was a suitable and stringent quality control standard. Three patients who were treated with donor leucocyte infusions for chronic myeloid leukaemia who had relapsed after bone marrow transplantation were followed over time. The normalized Bcr-Abl dosage was compared to the results of cytogenetics. Cytogenetic analysis was negative below a normalized Bcr-Abl dose of about 3 x 10(-2). This semi-automated method is fast, sensitive and accurate and enables a high throughput of samples.