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Unlike chimeric antigen receptors, T-cell receptors (TCRs) can recognize intracellular targets presented on human leukocyte antigen (HLA) molecules. Here we demonstrate that T cells expressing TCRs specific for peptides from the intracellular lymphoid-specific enzyme terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT), presented in the context of HLA-A*02:01, specifically eliminate primary acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells of T- and B-cell origin in vitro and in three mouse models of disseminated B-ALL. By contrast, the treatment spares normal peripheral T- and B-cell repertoires and normal myeloid cells in vitro, and in vivo in humanized mice. TdT is an attractive cancer target as it is highly and homogeneously expressed in 80-94% of B- and T-ALLs, but only transiently expressed during normal lymphoid differentiation, limiting on-target toxicity of TdT-specific T cells. TCR-modified T cells targeting TdT may be a promising immunotherapy for B-ALL and T-ALL that preserves normal lymphocytes.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Biotechnol

Publication Date





488 - 498


Animals, DNA Nucleotidylexotransferase, Hematopoietic Stem Cells, Lymphocytes, Mice, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, T-Lymphocytes