Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) cells require microenvironmental support for their proliferation. This can be recapitulated in highly immunocompromised hosts in the presence of T cells and other supporting cells. Current primary CLL xenograft models suffer from limited duration of tumour cell engraftment coupled with gradual T-cell outgrowth. Thus, a greater understanding of the interaction between CLL and T cells could improve their utility. In this study, using two distinct mouse xenograft models, we investigated whether xenografts recapitulate CLL biology, including natural environmental interactions with B-cell receptors and T cells, and whether manipulation of autologous T cells can expand the duration of CLL engraftment. We observed that primary CLL xenografts recapitulated both the tumour phenotype and T-cell repertoire observed in patients and that engraftment was significantly shorter for progressive tumours. A reduction in the number of patient T cells that were injected into the mice to 2-5% of the initial number or specific depletion of CD8(+) cells extended the limited xenograft duration of progressive cases to that characteristic of indolent disease. We conclude that manipulation of T cells can enhance current CLL xenograft models and thus expand their utility for investigation of tumour biology and pre-clinical drug assessment.