Five patients with sickle cell anemia were treated with hydroxyurea (HU), in hopes of augmenting their production of fetal hemoglobin. Laboratory responses in two patients treated for more than 2 years were encouraging and there were suggestions of clinical improvement. Long- term HU therapy should be considered for severely affected adults with sickle cell anemia who are willing to accept what is probably a small risk of carcinogenesis. Preliminary chromosomal analysis and knowledge of the clastogenic properties of HU suggest that conception and pregnancy should be avoided. Pharmacokinetic studies will probably be necessary to adjust individual dosage schedules so that cytotoxicity is avoided. F cell responses can be seen in 2 to 3 weeks if the HU dose is optimal, but establishment of a large number of F cells in the circulation may take a month or longer.