Analysis of minimal residual disease (MRD) can predict outcome in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). A large prospective study in childhood ALL has shown that MRD analysis using immunoglobulin (Ig) and T cell receptor (TCR) gene rearrangements as PCR targets can identify good and poor prognosis groups of substantial size that might profit from treatment adaptation. This MRD-based risk group assignment was based on the kinetics of tumor reduction. Consequently, the level of MRD has to be defined precisely in follow-up samples. However, current PCR methods do not allow easy and accurate quantification. We have tested 'real-time' quantitative PCR (RQ-PCR) using the TaqMan technology and compared its sensitivity with two conventional MRD-PCR methods, ie dot-blot and liquid hybridization of PCR amplified Ig/TCR gene rearrangements using clone-specific radioactive probes. In RQ-PCR the generated specific PCR product is measured at each cycle ('real-time') by cleavage of a fluorogenic intrinsic TaqMan probe. The junctional regions of rearranged Ig/TCR genes define the specificity and sensitivity of PCR-based MRD detection in ALL and are generally used to design a patient-specific probe. In the TaqMan technology we have chosen for the same approach with the design of patient-specific TaqMan probes at the position of the junctional regions. We developed primers/probe combinations for RQ-PCR analysis of a total of three IGH, two TCRD, two TCRG and three IGK gene rearrangements in four randomly chosen precursor-B-ALL. In one patient, 12 bone marrow follow-up samples were analyzed for the presence of MRD using an IGK PCR target. The sensitivity of the RQ-PCR technique appeared to be comparable to the dot-blot method, but less sensitive than liquid hybridization. Although it still is a relatively expensive method, RQ-PCR allows sensitive, reproducible and quantitative MRD detection with a high throughput of samples providing possibilities for semi-automation. We consider this novel technique as an important step forward towards routinely performed diagnostic MRD studies.