Sixteen patients with symptomatic hairy cell leukemia were treated with a single course of 2-chloro-2′-deoxyadenosine (CdA), 0.7 mg/kg total dose. Twelve patients achieved complete remission (CR). One patient with a CD19+/CD5+/CD25- phenotype and one with a pentostatin-treated CD19+/CD25- variant form had minor responses. Two patients with advanced disease and poor performance status died early from invasive mycosis. Three patients recovered from infections caused by cytomegalovirus and by candida. No patient had infections caused by bacteria or by unknown organisms. The median time to full recovery from anemia and thrombocytopenia was 6 and 2 weeks from start of therapy, respectively. Patients with infections, however, recovered at 13 and 5 weeks, respectively. Neutrophil, monocyte, and lymphocyte counts returned to normal at a median of 5, 5, and 10 weeks, respectively. Infections developed more frequently in pancytopenic patients than in those with one or more blood cell count within the normal range (P less than .01). All patients with one or no previous therapy had a CR, whereas those with more than one previous regimen had a lower CR rate (P less than .01). Thus, 1 week of CdA therapy frequently induced CR also in patients resistant to interferon. Toxicity was limited, and recovery from cytopenia was faster than what is reported during interferon therapy.