Co-transplantation of hematopoietic stem cells with those engineered to express leukemia-reactive T-cell receptors (TCRs) and differentiated ex vivo into precursor T cells (preTs) may reduce the risk of leukemia relapse. As expression of potentially self-(leukemia-) reactive TCRs will lead to negative selection or provoke autoimmunity upon thymic maturation, we investigated a novel concept whereby TCR expression set under the control of an inducible promoter would allow timely controlled TCR expression. After in vivo maturation and gene induction, preTs developed potent anti-leukemia effects. Engineered preTs provided protection even after repeated leukemia challenges by giving rise to effector and central memory cells. Importantly, adoptive transfer of TCR-transduced allogeneic preTs mediated anti-leukemia effect without evoking graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Earlier transgene induction forced CD8(+) T-cell development was required to obtain a mature T-cell subset of targeted specificity, allowed engineered T cells to efficiently pass positive selection and abrogated the endogenous T-cell repertoire. Later induction favored CD4 differentiation and failed to produce a leukemia-reactive population emphasizing the dominant role of positive selection. Taken together, we provide new functional insights for the employment of TCR-engineered precursor cells as a controllable immunotherapeutic modality with significant anti-leukemia activity.