Transfer of tumor-specific T-cell receptor (TCR) genes into patient T cells is a promising strategy in cancer immunotherapy. We describe here a novel vector (CD8-LV) derived from lentivirus, which delivers genes exclusively and specifically to CD8(+) cells. CD8-LV mediated stable in vitro and in vivo reporter gene transfer as well as efficient transfer of genes encoding TCRs recognizing the melanoma antigen tyrosinase. Strikingly, T cells genetically modified with CD8-LV killed melanoma cells reproducibly more efficiently than CD8(+) cells transduced with a conventional lentiviral vector. Neither TCR expression levels, nor the rate of activation-induced death of transduced cells differed between both vector types. Instead, CD8-LV transduced cells showed increased granzyme B and perforin levels as well as an up-regulation of CD8 surface expression in a small subpopulation of cells. Thus, a possible mechanism for CD8-LV enhanced tumor cell killing may be based on activation of the effector functions of CD8(+) T cells by the vector particle displaying OKT8-derived CD8-scFv and an increase of the surface density of CD8, which functions as coreceptor for tumor-cell recognition. CD8-LV represents a powerful novel vector for TCR gene therapy and other applications in immunotherapy and basic research requiring CD8(+) cell-specific gene delivery.