Thirteen chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients, 10 with variant Philadelphia (Ph) translocations and 3 Ph negative cases, were analyzed by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with the use of BCR and ABL cosmid probes and a chromosome 22 painting probe. In the variant Ph translocations, the BCR-ABL fusion gene was located on the Ph chromosome; in 1 CML Ph-negative patient, the BCR-ABL fusion gene was located on the Ph chromosome; and, in 2 patients, it was located on chromosome 9. The chromosome 22 painting probe was detected on the third-party chromosome of the variant translocation, and in none of the variant translocations was there any detectable signal on chromosome 9. In CML patients with clonal evolution of a simple Ph, a signal of the chromosome 22 painting probe was detected on the der(9) of the Ph translocation. It was concluded that the variant Ph translocations evolved simultaneously in a three-way rearrangement. The clinical parameters of the 13 patients were similar to those of a large group of CML patients with a simple Ph translocation. It is suggested that, to determine the prognosis of CML patients with a complex karyotype, FISH analysis with a chromosome 22 painting probe be performed. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc.