Chromosomal imbalances were examined by comparative genomic hybridization in 30 cases of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) at diagnosis, in sequential samples from 17 of these patients, and in 6 large B-cell lymphomas transformed from CLL [Richter's syndrome (RS)] with no available previous sample. The most common imbalances in CLL at diagnosis were gains in chromosome 12 (300%), and losses in chromosomes 13 (17%), 17p (17%), 8p (70%), 11q (7%), and 14q (7%). The analysis of sequential samples showed an increased number of chromosomal imbalances in 6 of 10 (60%) patients with clinical progression and in 2 patients with stable stage C disease. No karyotypic evolution was observed in four cases with stable stage A disease and in one RS clonally unrelated to the previous CLL. Gains of 2pter, and 7pter, and losses of 8p, 11q, and 17p were recurrent alterations associated with karyotype progression. RS showed a higher number of gains, losses, total alterations, and losses of 8p and chromosome 9 than CLL at diagnosis. 17p losses were associated with p53 gene mutations and with a significantly higher number of chromosomal imbalances than tumors with normal chromosome 17 profile. However, no relationship was observed between 9p deletions and p16INK4a gene alterations. Losses of 17p and an increased number of losses at diagnosis were significantly associated with a shorter survival. These findings indicate that CLL has frequent chromosomal imbalances, which may increase during the progression of the disease and transformation into large cell lymphoma. Genetic alterations detected by comparative genomic hybridization may also be of prognostic significance.