We explored the relationship between the cytogenetic/biologic characteristics of B-chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) cells and their tendency to undergo spontaneous or fludarabine-induced apoptosis in vitro. B cells from 36 B-CLL patients were incubated with or without fluclarabine for 48 h. Apoptosis was determined by two assays: annexin V staining and DNA staining. Fluorescence in situ hybridization was used for detection of trisomy 12, 11q deletion, and 17p deletion. Bcl-2 and CD38 expressions were determined by flow cytometry. Five patients had 17p deletion, 6 had trisomy 12, and another 6 had 11q deletion. B-CLL cells with 17p deletion had significant resistance to apoptosis induced by fludarabine and a slight spontaneous resistance to apoptosis. Bcl-2 and CD38 were not associated with in vitro spontaneous and fludarabine-induced apoptosis. In conclusion, 17p deletion, which causes loss of p53 gene, is associated with resistance to fludarabine-induced apoptosis in vitro. New treatment modalities should be tried in B-CLL patients with 17p deletion.