Twenty-four patients with advanced hairy cell leukemia treated with 2'- deoxycoformycin (dCF) were studied after achieving complete remission to determine the impact of treatment on survival, disease-free survival, long-term complications of treatment, and response to retreatment. At a median follow-up time of 82 months (range, 54 to 104 months), 23 of 24 patients remain alive. One patient has died of recurrent disease refractory to treatment. Of the remaining 23 patients, 11 have relapsed at a median time of 30 months (range, 7 to 80 months) after treatment completion. Of these 11 patients, 7 have been retreated with dCF or 2'-chlorodeoxyadenosine (2-CdA), including one patient that was retreated twice. All seven patients have responded, with five patients achieving second complete remission. Two patients have had normalization of blood cell counts, but repeat bone marrows have not been performed. No serious infections have been seen in dCF-treated patients during follow-up. One case of Hodgkin's disease and three cases of skin malignancies have developed in these 24 patients. From initiation of treatment, survival is 93 months (range, 63 to 116 months). We concluded that dCF significantly prolongs the survival of patients with advanced hairy cell leukemia without resultant long-term complications. It is too early to predict if this therapy will be curative for the patients still in remission.