Summary. Concurrent resistance mechanisms, such as P-glycoprotein (PGP) and bcl-2, may contribute to a worse outcome in adult acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Between 1990 and 2000, we analysed PGP and bcl-2 by flow cytometry, using two anti-PGP (C219 and JSB-1) monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and an anti-bcl-2 mAb in 115 de novo adult ALL patients. Both a longer overall survival (OS) and longer disease-free survival (DFS) were observed in PGP-negative patients (23%vs 0% at 3 years, P = 0·011 and 29%vs 0% at 2 years, P = 0·006 for C219 respectively; 42%vs 0% at 1·5 years, P = 0·004 and 53%vs 0% at 8·5 months, P = 0·00006 for JSB-1 respectively). Bcl-2 positivity was associated with a significantly higher complete remission rate (90%vs 66%, P = 0·01). Moreover, in 69 patients not presenting with either t(9;22) or B-mature immunophenotype, PGP negativity (JSB-1) maintained its significant favourable prognostic impact with regard to OS (41%vs 0% at 1·5 years, P = 0·009) and DFS (83%vs 0% at 6 months, P = 0·0005). Importantly, within a subset of 62 patients with normal (n = 31) or unknown (n = 31) karyotype, PGP (JSB-1)-negative patients showed both a significantly longer OS and DFS (63%vs 0% at 1·4 years, P = 0·018 and 84%vs 0% at 6 months, P = 0·001 respectively). In multivariate analysis, JSB-1 (P = 0·008) and cytogenetics (P = 0·02) were found to be independent prognostic factors with regard to DFS. Therefore, in adult ALL, PGP and bcl-2 represent sensitive indicators of clinical outcome, and potential targets of novel molecules aimed at overcoming chemoresistance and recurrent relapses.