Although anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) show promise for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the success of the anti-CD20 mAb rituximab in CLL treatment has been limited. Novel anti-CD20 mAbs with more potent cytotoxic activity have recently been engineered, but so far most have only been tested in vitro with natural killer (NK) cells from healthy donors. Because it is still unclear whether these optimized cytotoxic mAbs will improve NK-cell killing of tumor cells in CLL patients, we characterized the relevant phenotypic and functional features of NK cells from CLL patients in detail. Expression of inhibitory and activating NK-cell receptors and of Fc gamma receptor IIIA (FcγRIIIA) is well preserved in CD16(+)CD56(dim) cytotoxic NK cells from these patients, independently of disease progression. These cells are fully functional following cytokine stimulation. In addition, the FcγRIIIA-optimized LFB-R603 anti-CD20 mAb mediates 100 times greater antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity by NK cells from CLL patients and healthy donors than rituximab. Enhanced degranulation against autologous B-CLL cells is observed at lower concentrations of LFB-R603 than rituximab, regardless of CLL prognostic factors. These findings strongly justify further clinical development of anti-CD20 mAbs optimized for FcγR engagement in CLL patients.