NY-ESO-1 is a germ cell antigen aberrantly expressed by different tumor types that elicits strong humoral and cellular immune responses, representing one of the most promising candidates for vaccination of cancer patients. A detailed analysis of CD8(+) T cells generated in vaccine trials using NY-ESO-1-derived peptides (157-165 and 157-167) revealed that the dominant immune response was directed against a cryptic epitope (159-167) diverting the immune response from tumor recognition. Only CTL reactivity to the NY-ESO-1(157-165) peptide appeared to be capable of lysing NY-ESO-1/HLA-A0201-expressing tumor cells. To study the process of NY-ESO-1 peptide presentation by tumor cells in more detail we generated a high-affinity (K(D)=60 nM) antibody fragment that specifically recognizes the NY-ESO-1(157-165) peptide/HLA-A0201 complex. Peptide variants such as the NY-ESO-1(157-167) peptide or the cryptic NY-ESO-1(159-167) peptide were not recognized. The antibody fragment blocked in a dose-dependent fashion the recognition of NY-ESO-1/HLA-A2-positive tumor cells by NY-ESO-1(157-165) peptide-specific CD8(+) T cells. This antibody fragment is a novel reagent that binds with TCR-like specificity to the NY-ESO-1(157-165)/HLA-A2 complex thus distinguishing between CTL responses against immunological meaningful or cryptic NY-ESO-1-derived peptides. It may therefore become a useful monitoring tool for the development of NY-ESO-1-based cancer vaccines.