The objective of this study was to evaluate the relationship between blood mRNA, disease activity and treatment effects in a longitudinal study of patients with dermatomyositis (DM) or polymyositis (PM). In all, 24 patients with DM or PM were followed for up to 6 years (mean of 1.9 years) at 2-7 follow-up visits while receiving standard clinical care. Clinical data and blood samples collected at 80 patient visits were used for the analysis of cytokine-induced gene expression for the signaling pathways of type 1 interferon (IFN), tumor necrosis factor-α, IL-1β, granulocyte-monocyte colony-stimulating factor, IL-10 and IL-13. A type 1 IFN signature score, but not other cytokine signature scores in the blood of patients with DM or PM, correlated highly with disease activity, decreased significantly with immunomodulatory therapies and showed concordant changes with major changes in disease activity. Type 1 IFN signature score in the blood correlates with disease activity in longitudinal follow-up of individual patients with DM or PM. The type 1 IFN-inducible gene transcripts in the blood have potential utility for monitoring disease activity in patients with DM or PM.