Leukocyte production is influenced by a family of glycoproteins called colony-stimulating factors. Two of these have been purified, cloned and produced in quantities sufficient for clinical use. Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) preferentially stimulates neutrophil production and has been shown to reduce the duration of neutropenia following chemotherapy. G-CSF therapy also has beneficial effects in a variety of other neutropenic states. Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) stimulates neutrophil, monocyte and eosinophil production and function. GM-CSF is associated with more diverse haematological and clinical effects. George Morstyn and colleagues summarize the promising results from the early clinical trials with these new therapeutic agents.