We evaluated 48 archival cases of acute erythroleukemia and divided them into 3 groups: M6a, corresponding to the traditional French-American-British M6 category; M6b, which is pure erythroleukemia; and M6c, in which myeloblasts and pronormoblasts each account for more than 30% of cells by the French-American-British exclusion criteria. No significant differences were noted among the subtypes for ratio of males to females; age; or exposure to toxins, alcohol, or both. However, compared with the patients in the M6a group, patients in the M6b and M6c groups demonstrated a statistically significant increase in cytogenetic aberrations, proliferation markers (proliferating cell nuclear antigen and Ki67), and ringed (type III) sideroblasts. Marked survival differences were noted between the M6a (30.1 +/- 29.5 months) and M6b (3.15 +/- 4.2 months) groups, with patients in the M6c group demonstrating an intermediate prognosis (10.5 +/- 12.7 months). Chemotherapeutic regimens induced remission in all treated patients in the M6a and M6c groups but did not appear to affect the M6b group. However, the patients in the M6c group remained in remission for a significantly shorter period of time than did patients in the M6a group. Overall, survival appeared to depend on the ratio of pronormoblasts to myeloblasts at diagnosis and demonstrated a rapid decline with increasing pronormoblast and decreasing myeloblast counts. We must, therefore, devise chemotherapeutic regimens that target both blastic components of this disease.