Tumor cell lines are widely used as oncologic models and resources, forming, along with primary patient material and animal models, one of three major subjects for cancer investigation. With the advent of the Human Genome Project (HGP) and the ensuing provision of sequencing data and mapped clones, human cancer cell lines, notably those derived from leukemia-lymphoma (LL) have become increasingly productive tools for cancer gene ascertainment and characterization. Hence, the roles of putative novel cancer genes may be investigated using diverse panels of LL cell lines, both individually by PCR-based methods, and globally by transcriptional chipprofiling. Similar studies have also enabled the faithfulness with which cancer cell lines model their supposed in vivo counterparts to be quantified at last. Several recent transcriptional profiling studies indicate that of all tumor types well characterized human LL cell lines most accurately model the gene expression patterns of their corresponding primary tumors. Analysis using genomic arrays tells a similar story for the stability of chromosome rearrangements in LL cell lines. Well characterized LL cell lines also provide ideal tools for investigating the druggability of individual gene products, e.g. by measuring their transcript levels using q(uantitative)-PCR methods in cells subjected to treatments with small interfering (si)-RNAs. We provide a list of authentic, well characterized examples for prospective investigators, since many circulating cell lines have been cross-contaminated and describe DNA profiling methods which, together with classic and molecular cytogenetic analyses, inform authentication. We also review the problem of mycoplasma contamination and means for its eradication.