The last three decades have seen major advances in understanding the genetic basis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Comprehensive molecular and cytogenetic analysis can distinguish biologically and prognostically distinct disease subsets that demand differing treatment approaches. Definition of these pretreatment characteristics coupled with morphological response to induction chemotherapy provides the framework for current risk-stratification schemes, aimed at identifying subgroups most (and least) likely to benefit from allogeneic transplant. However, since such parameters lack the precision to distinguish the individual patient likely to be cured with conventional therapy from those destined to relapse, there has been considerable interest in development of multiparameter flow cytometry, identifying leukemia-associated aberrant phenotypes, and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RQ-PCR) detecting leukemia-specific targets (eg, fusion gene transcripts, NPM1 mutation) or genes overexpressed in AML (eg, WT1), to provide a more precise measure of disease response. Minimal residual disease (MRD) monitoring has been shown to be a powerful independent prognostic factor and is now routinely used to guide therapy in patients with the acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) subtype. We consider the challenges involved in extending this concept, to develop a more tailored personalized medicine approach to improve the management and outcome of other forms of AML.