Seventeen patients with hairy cell leukemia (HCL) were treated with low doses of recombinant alpha interferon (IFN) for over 4 months. Marked improvement was observed in peripheral blood and bone marrow in 15 of 17 patients. Comparison of pretreatment values and hemograms obtained after 4 months of treatment showed a marked decrease in circulating hairy cells (P less than .01), a decrease in the number of lymphocytes (P less than .01), a rise in the number of platelets (P less than .05), granulocytes (P less than .05), and monocytes (P less than .01), and a rise in the hemoglobin level (P less than .01). Transient reduction in the number of granulocytes was noted during the first month. Correction of thrombocytopenia often appeared within 2 months and usually preceded improvement of anemia, monocytopenia, and neutropenia. Bone marrow biopsy specimens were taken before treatment and 2, 4, and 7 months after its initiation. The volumes occupied by hairy cells, cells of the myeloid lines, and adipocytes were studied by stereological analysis of semithin sections. Decrease in the volume occupied by hairy cells was seen after 4 months of treatment (P less than .01), and the volume continued to decrease at the seventh month (P less than .05). Hairy cells were no longer detected on bone marrow biopsies of 4 of 17 patients by the fourth month and in 3 of 8 additional patients by the seventh month. A rise in the volume occupied by normal myeloid cells was visible by the second month of treatment (P less than .01). Nevertheless, the volume occupied by granulocytes remained lower than in the normal controls (P less than .01). After an initial increase during the first 2 months of treatment (P less than .01), the overall cellularity remained unchanged at 4 months and decreased significantly (P less than .05) at 7 months. Except for biopsies at 2 months, mean cellularity was below that of control biopsies (P less than .01).