Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is a molecularly heterogeneous disease as revealed by recent genomic studies. Among genetic lesions that are recurrent in CLL, few clinically validated prognostic markers, such as TP53 mutations and 17p deletion, are available for the use in clinical practice to guide treatment decisions. Recently, several novel molecular markers have been identified in CLL. Though these mutations have not yet gained the qualification of predictive factors for treatment tailoring, they have shown to be promising to refine the prognostic stratification of patients. The introduction of targeted drugs is changing the genetics of CLL, and has disclosed the acquisition of previously unexpected drug resistant mutations in signalling pathway genes. Ultra-deep next generation sequencing has allowed to reach deep levels of resolution of the genetic portrait of CLL providing a precise definition of its subclonal genetic architecture. This approach has shown that small subclones harbouring drug resistant mutations anticipate the development of a chemorefractory phenotype. Here we review the recent advances in the definition of the genomic landscape of CLL and the ongoing research to characterise the clinical implications of old and new molecular lesions in the setting of both conventional chemo-immunotherapy and targeted drugs.British Journal of Cancer advance online publication, 31 March 2016; doi:10.1038/bjc.2016.78 www.bjcancer.com.