Although the progression of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) requires the cooperation of the microenvironment, the exact cellular and molecular mechanisms involved are still unclear. We investigated the interleukin (IL)-23 receptor (IL-23R)/IL-23 axis and found that circulating cells from early-stage CLL patients with shorter time-to-treatment, but not of those with a more benign course, expressed a defective form of the IL-23R complex lacking the IL-12Rβ1 chain. However, cells from both patient groups expressed the complete IL-23R complex in tissue infiltrates and could be induced to express the IL-12Rβ1 chain when cocultured with activated T cells or CD40L+ cells. CLL cells activated in vitro in this context produced IL-23, a finding that, together with the presence of IL-23 in CLL lymphoid tissues, suggests the existence of an autocrine/paracrine loop inducing CLL cell proliferation. Interference with the IL-23R/IL-23 axis using an anti-IL-23p19 antibody proved effective in controlling disease onset and expansion in xenografted mice, suggesting potential therapeutic strategies.