Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) carrying t(8;21) has an overall favourable prognosis. However, relapse occurs and the impact of multidrug resistance gene (MDR1) expression on recurring disease in this group of patients is not known. We determined quantifiable MDR1 expression in the bone marrow of 28 AML patients with t(8;21) by a validated real-time polymerase chain reaction assay. Using MDR1 expression, white blood cell count and CD56 expression at diagnosis we observed complete concordance of predicted and observed relapses. A calculated logit out of these three variables was a strong independent prognostic factor for overall (P = 0·007) and disease-free survival (P = 0·002).