Minimal residual disease (MRD) detection during the early treatment phase has become an important stratification parameter in many childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) treatment protocols. Here, we aimed to address the applicability of rearranged antigen-receptor genes as potential MRD markers using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RQ-PCR) in a Swedish population-based cohort. From 334 childhood ALL cases diagnosed during 2002-2006, we analysed 279 diagnostic samples (84%) by screening for rearranged immunoglobulin (IG) and T-cell receptor (TCR) genes. Allele-specific oligonucleotides were designed, and the sensitivity and quantitative level was determined for each target. Overall, clonal IG/TCR rearrangements were detected in 97% (236/244) of B-cell precursor ALL (BCP ALL) and 94% (33/35) of T-ALL. A sensitive RQ-PCR analysis ( or = 10(-3), which is applied in the current Nordic treatment protocol (NOPHO-ALL 2008) for the identification of high-risk patients, 93% of BCP ALL and 86% of T-ALL reached this quantitative range by at least one target gene. Taken together, this national retrospective study demonstrates that an IG/TCR target for MRD monitoring can be identified in the majority of childhood ALL cases, whereas identification of a second sensitive target gene needs to be improved.