Dendritic cells (DCs) are key antigen-presenting cells (APCs), which link innate and adaptive immunity, ultimately activating antigen-specific T cells. This review examines the relationship between the acute and chronic myeloid leukaemias and cells with DC properties. DCs are non-dividing terminally differentiated cells, and ex vivo leukaemic cells or cell lines show little similarity to DCs. However, many leukaemias differentiate further in response to defined stimuli, and retain a degree of lineage plasticity. Therefore, several studies have explored the response of leukaemic cells to the in vitro regimens used to differentiate ex vivo primary DCs. Recent data suggest that the most ‘dendritic-like’ cells can be derived from more undifferentiated myeloid leukaemias, such as the myelomonocytic Mutz-3 cell line. These findings have important implications for understanding the developmental origins of DCs, for harnessing the APC properties of this class of tumour to stimulate the therapeutic anti-tumour immunity, and for developing useful models for the study of human DC physiology and pathology. There is a strong rationale for further exploration of this class of tumour and its relationship to the normal DC.