Etanercept, a recombinant human tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor that binds both soluble and cell-bound TNF, has been shown to reduce disease activity and inhibit joint destruction when administered to patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Because TNF receptors are found on many types of cells that modulate the immune response, we evaluated the general immune function of a subset of RA patients in a blinded clinical study. No significant differences were seen between patients treated with etanercept or placebo in the surface antigen phenotypes of peripheral blood leukocytes, T cell proliferative responses, neutrophil function, delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reactions, serum immunoglobulin levels, or incidence of infections. Although this observational study was relatively small and could detect only major changes in immunological status, the stability of immune function over time in patients receiving etanercept corroborates the findings in clinical studies, which suggest that etanercept does not alter overall global immune function. © 2002 Elsevier Science (USA).