The vaso-occlusive process (VOC) in sickle cell disease is of a complex nature. It involves intricate interactions between sickle red blood cells, endothelium and probably also leukocytes. As these interactions are regulated by cytokines, we analyzed the role of the potent neutrophil chemokine IL-8 by measuring serum levels in sickle cell patients during sickle cell crisis. These results were compared to nonsymptomatics and healthy controls. In patients having a vaso-occlusive crisis both HbSS and HbSC patients showed significantly enhanced serum IL-8 levels compared to healthy controls. Several of these patients showed extremely elevated serum IL-8 levels which were independent of the crisis inducing factor. Furthermore, a sickle cell patient with VOC as a complication of rhGM-CSF treatment similarly showed high IL-8 serum levels at crisis onset. Nonsymptomatic sickle cell patients serum IL-8 levels were comparable to healthy controls. These results implicate a role for IL-8 at or during (the initiation of) sickle cell crisis.