Adoptive T cell therapy (ACT) is a promising strategy for treating cancer, but it often fails because of cell intrinsic regulatory programs that limit the degree or duration of T cell function. In this study, we found that ectopic expression of microRNA-200c (miR-200c) markedly enhanced the antitumor activity of CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) during ACT in multiple mouse models. CTLs transduced with miR-200c exhibited reduced apoptosis during engraftment and enhanced in vivo persistence, accompanied by up-regulation of the transcriptional regulator T cell factor 1 (TCF1) and the inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF). miR-200c elicited these changes by suppressing the transcription factor Zeb1 and thereby inducing genes characteristic of epithelial cells. Overexpression of one of these genes, Epcam, was sufficient to augment therapeutic T cell responses against both solid and liquid tumors. These results identify the miR-200c–EpCAM axis as an avenue for improving ACT and demonstrate that select genetic perturbations can produce phenotypically distinct T cells with advantageous therapeutic properties.
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