Peripheral tolerance to shared Ags expressed on both tumors and normal self-tissues presents a major barrier to T cell-based immunotherapy as a treatment for cancer. To assess the activity of tumor-specific T cells against spontaneously arising carcinomas in the context of shared Ag expression, we developed a model system whereby an identified tumor Ag, tumor ERK (tERK), is expressed transgenically on both normal mammary tissue and spontaneous mammary carcinomas. Transfer of in vitro-activated, tERK-specific DUC18 T cells delayed spontaneous tumor development in tERK-expressing mice when T cells were given before the development of palpable carcinomas. However, antitumor activity mediated by in vitro-activated DUC18 T cells, as measured by responsiveness against a transplanted tERK-expressing fibrosarcoma challenge, was lost within days of transfer. This loss was due to expression of tERK as a self-Ag on normal tissues and was independent of the presence of mammary tumors. In contrast, transferred naive DUC18 T cells maintained a long-term protective function in tERK-expressing mice. Ten-fold fewer naive T cells activated in vivo were able to replicate the delay in spontaneous tumor development achieved by in vitro-activated T cells. These results are in contrast to our earlier studies using transplanted tumors alone, in which in vitro-activated DUC18 T cells were more efficacious than naive DUC18 T cells and highlight the need to perform tumor studies in the presence of tumor Ag expression on normal self-tissue. Copyright © 2005 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.