Human leukemias with 11q23 translocations occur sporadically and after cancer treatment with DNA topoisomerase II-targeted drugs. To investigate this process, we examined DNA topoisomerase II cleavage in vitro in subclones of the normal Uq23 genomic homologue and a t(9;11) translocation breakpoint junction. Cleavage was assayed with limiting dilutions of enzyme in the presence or absence of epipodophyllotoxin and ATP. The strongest sites of cleavage coincided with the t(9;11) breakpoint site and two other translocation breakpoint sites within the normal homologue. These results support the involvement of DNA topoisomerase II in the translocation process at chromosome band Uq23. © 1995, American Association for Cancer Research. All rights reserved.