Children with acute lymphocytic leukemia who fail to enter remission have a poor prognosis. In a previous study, 9 of 14 children with induction failure entered remission after teniposide (VM26) plus cytosine arabinoside (Ara-C). We attempted to confirm these results. Twenty children received teniposide (200 mg/m2/day IV) for 3 days and cytosine arabinoside (100 mg/m2/day continuous IV infusion) for 7 days. There were 3 complete and 3 partial responses. Two additional patients achieved a complete response after a second, shorter course of the same agents. Although VM26 plus Ara-C is an active combination for treatment of acute lymphocytic leukemia induction failure, it does not appear as effective as in the initial report. Better treatments for this problem are needed.