The DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) complex is composed of a catalytic (DNA-PKcs), and a regulatory subunit (Ku70/Ku86 heterodimer). The expression and function of DNA-PK subunits was investigated in purified blood lymphocytes obtained from patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) either refractory to chemotherapy or untreated. Variations in DNA-PK activity were found amongst CLL samples by comparison to human cell lines. It was noticeable that the low DNA-PK activity was associated with samples from untreated patients that exhibited a sensitivity phenotype, determined in vitro, to the radiomimetic agent neocarcinostatin by comparison to samples from refractory patients. The regulation in DNA-PK activity was associated with Ku heterodimer expression while DNA-PKcs was unaffected. Moreover, the presence of an altered form of the Ku86 subunit was identified in samples with low DNA-PK activity. These results suggest a regulation process of the DNA-PK activity in fresh human cells.