Basophilia has been reported to indicate an accelerated phase of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), heralding a poor prognosis. We have studied 47 patients with chronic‐phase CML by basophil growth and differentiation assays in vitro, demonstrating an association between basophil growth index (BGI) and clinical time to blast crisis as well as overall survival. In addition to confirming an association between positive BGI and phase of CML in a larger group of patients, a positive BGI predicted death or blast crisis within 2 years' study of chronic phase CML (p<0.01), with a sensitivity of 78%, specificity, 81%; the positive predictive value of a positive test, 64%; and a negative predictive value of a negative test, 89%. The survival experience of the 22 evaluable patients with chronic‐phase CML and a positive BGI was significantly worse than the survival of the 19 patients with a negative BGI (p<0.0001). At 1, 2, and 3 years the proportion of surviving patients with a positive BGI was 0.64, 0.32, and 0.23, respectively, compared with 1.00, 0.90, and 0.79 for those with a negative BGI. The median survival of chronic phase CML patients with a positive test at diagnosis (n = 14) was 27 months versus 54 months for those with a negative diagnosis (n = 14) (p<0.05). These findings emphasize the prognostic utility of basophil growth assays in CML and suggest a molecular relationship between leukemic transformation and basophil lineage expression.