Twenty-two patients with hairy cell leukemia were treated with biosynthetic (recombinant) alpha-2-interferon in an open-label, single- arm efficacy study. Patients received 2 X 10(6) U/m2 recombinant alpha- 2-interferon three times weekly. Therapy was well tolerated subjectively with minimal short-term hematologic toxicity. Two patients had bacterial infections during the period of study, and one patient experienced a short-lived readily reversible rejection of a corneal transplant. Statistical comparison of the mean hematologic indices at study entry and after three to six months of therapy with recombinant alpha-2-interferon indicates a significant improvement in hemoglobin, granulocyte, and platelet counts. Bone marrow biopsies in six of 14 patients after six months of therapy showed a greater than 50% decrease in the infiltration of leukemia cells. We conclude that recombinant alpha-2-interferon is highly effective therapy for hairy cell leukemia.