Abstract. Increasing evidence suggests that leukaemias are sustained by leukaemic stem cells. Leukaemia can indeed be viewed as aberrant haematopoietic processes initiated by rare leukaemic stem cells that have maintained or reacquired the capacity for indefinite proliferation through accumulated mutations and/or epigenetic changes. Yet, despite their critical importance, much remains to be learned about the developmental origin of leukaemic stem cells and the molecular pathways underlying the transformation of normal cells into leukaemic stem cells. This report will review our current knowledge on leukaemic stem cells development and finally demonstrate how these discoveries provide a paradigm for identification of cancer stem cells from solid tumours.