The single most important prognostic determinant in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is effective therapy and changes in therapy may influence the significance of other risk factors. The effect of intensified therapy on the importance of currently recognized phenotypic and genotypic determinants of outcome was assessed in 2090 children enrolled on the Medical Research Council United Kingdom acute lymphoblastic leukaemia XI (MRC UKALL XI) protocol. Treatment allocation was not determined by risk factors. Multivariate analysis confirmed the dominant influence on prognosis of age, sex and presenting white cell count (WCC). After allowing for these features, blast karyotype, d 8 marrow blast percentage and remission status at the end of induction therapy were the only remaining significant predictors of outcome. Organomegaly, haemoglobin concentration, French–American–British type, body mass index, presence of central nervous system disease at diagnosis, immunophenotype and presence of TEL/AML1 fusion gene (examined in a subset of 659 patients) either had no significant effect on outcome or were significant only in univariate analysis. Among karyotype abnormalities with an independent influence on prognosis, high hyperdiploidy (> 50 chromosomes) was shown to be favourable, whereas near haploidy (23–29 chromosomes), presence of the Philadelphia chromosome, t(4;11) and abnormalities affecting the short arm of chromosome 9 [abn (9p)] were adverse risk factors. Early responders to therapy, determined by residual marrow infiltration after 8 d of induction therapy, had a good outcome, while the small proportion of patients who did not achieve a complete remission by the end of induction therapy had a poor outcome. A third block of late intensification was shown to improve event-free survival by 8% at 5 years. The effect of these risk factors was not significantly different between those randomized to the third intensification block and those not randomized to a third block.