Summary Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is a malignant haematological disorder that remains mostly incurable; more than 95% of patients have disease of B-cell origin. Advances with targeted agents such as monoclonal antibodies, antisense therapy, or both these techniques combined with traditional chemotherapy have improved the frequency of remission. The clinical course of CLL is marked by frequent relapse, and there are limited therapeutic options for patients with relapsed or refractory disease. The morphologically mature CLL clone regulates the microenvironment through modulation of the cytokine milieu that aids its growth and survival, and has a role in immune escape. Targeting of the tumour-cell microenvironment has not been investigated as a treatment option for CLL. Immunomodulating agents are a new class of drugs that change expression of various cytokines and that costimulate immune effector cells.