How naturally arising human CD4+ T helper subsets affect cancer immunotherapy is unclear. We reported that human CD4+CD26high T cells elicit potent immunity against solid tumors. As CD26high T cells are often categorized as TH17 cells for their IL-17 production and high CD26 expression, we posited these populations would have similar molecular properties. Here, we reveal that CD26high T cells are epigenetically and transcriptionally distinct from TH17 cells. Of clinical importance, CD26high and TH17 cells engineered with a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) regressed large human tumors to a greater extent than enriched TH1 or TH2 cells. Only human CD26high T cells mediated curative responses, even when redirected with a suboptimal CAR and without aid by CD8+ CAR T cells. CD26high T cells cosecreted effector cytokines, produced cytotoxic molecules, and persisted long term. Collectively, our work underscores the promise of CD4+ T cell populations to improve durability of solid tumor therapies.
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