Cellular drug resistance is one of the main causes of the frequent ultimate failure of chemotherapy in childhood acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We here summarize the results of a literature review on in vitro drug resistance in childhood AML, focusing on studies using so-called cell culture assays. We also briefly describe some results of an ongoing collaborative study between the Research Laboratory of Pediatric Oncology in Amsterdam (University Hospital Vrije Universiteit) and the German BFM-AML Group. In general, the literature and our preliminary data on in vitro cellular drug resistance in AML are promising in terms of clinical relevance. Cell biological features and clinical response to chemotherapy are related to in vitro drug resistance. However, a large study including multivariate analysis is required to more firmly establish the clinical value of cellular drug resistance testing in childhood AML, and the collaborative study will therefore be continued. Possible applications of cell culture assays include risk-group stratification, rational improvements of current treatment protocols for subgroups of patients based on specific drug resistance profiles, individualised tailored therapy, the study of cross-resistance patterns between drugs, the study of possibilities to modulate or circumvent drug resistance, the study of drug interactions, selection of patients for clinical phase II studies and drug screening.