This review has summarized information published over the last 5 years on the presence and pathophysiologic role of IL-1 and TNF alpha in RA. The evidence to date shows that 5 of 6 criteria for identifying mediators of tissue damage in human autoimmune diseases are satisfied (Table 1). The last criterion, prevention of clinical progression in patients with RA, is currently being evaluated. Many new therapeutic approaches are currently being developed, including the use of soluble receptors to IL-1 or TNF, monoclonal antibodies to TNF alpha, a specific IL-1 receptor antagonist, and gene therapy with the latter molecule. It should be emphasized that both IL-1 and TNF alpha play important roles in normal host defense; the possible complications of blocking their production or effects need to be carefully evaluated in long-term studies. A recent review has emphasized that although IL-1 and TNF alpha have many overlapping biologic properties, each may exhibit distinct effects in joint disease (99). Anti-TNF treatment may be primarily antiinflammatory but blocking IL-1 may be more effective in preventing cartilage destruction (100). The possibility exists that simultaneous inhibition of TNF alpha and IL-1 may be more therapeutically efficacious than blockade of either agent alone, as was recently demonstrated with IL-1ra and soluble TNF receptors in bacterial cell wall-induced arthritis in rats (101). The next level of clinical studies in rheumatoid arthritis should include the use of two biologic response modifiers together, or one agent combined with a more traditional form of therapy.