We have devised methods facilitating the establishment of continuous cultures of T-cell blasts from patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia of T-cell type at diagnosis. The cultured cells closely resemble those of the patients at the time of diagnosis with respect to surface markers, karyotype, and T-cell receptor gene rearrangements. Cultured T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (diagnosis) cells (a) are lymphocytes with a convoluted nucleus; (b) have doubling times of 24–48 h; (c) are dependent for growth on interleukin 2; (d) are reverse transcriptase negative; (e) do not form colonies in methyl cellulose; and (f) are clonal with respect to T-cell receptor β chain rearrangements. Three T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia cultures had a normal diploid karyotype, and one had a 6q- deletion which was also present at the time of diagnosis.

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This work was supported in part by USPHS Grants CA34151, CA42432, and CA40186 awarded by the National Cancer Institute, Department of Health and Human Services, and by Grant CH465 awarded by the American Cancer Society.

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