This paper provides the first evidence of a clinical response to gene therapy in human arthritis. Two subjects with rheumatoid arthritis received ex vivo, intraarticular delivery of human interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) cDNA. To achieve this, autologous synovial fibroblasts were transduced with a retrovirus, MFG-IRAP, carrying IL-1Ra as the transgene, or remained as untransduced controls. Symptomatic metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints were injected with control or transduced cells. Joints were clinically evaluated on the basis of pain; the circumference of MCP joint 1 was also measured. After 4 weeks, joints underwent surgical synovectomy. There were no adverse events in either subject. The first subject responded dramatically to gene transfer, with a marked and rapid reduction in pain and swelling that lasted for the entire 4 weeks of the study. Remarkably, joints receiving IL-1Ra cDNA were protected from flares that occurred during the study period. Analysis of RNA recovered after synovectomy revealed enhanced expression of IL-1Ra and reduced expression of matrix metalloproteinase-3 and IL-1beta. The second subject also responded with reduced pain and swelling. Thus, gene transfer to human, rheumatoid joints can be accomplished safely to produce clinical benefit, at least in the short term. Using this ex vivo procedure, the transgene persisted within the joint for at least 1 month. Further clinical studies are warranted.