Activation-induced cell death (AICD) of T lymphocytes can be exploited by cancers to escape immunological destruction. We demonstrated that tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and type 1 helper T (TH1) cells, rather than type 2 helper T cells and regulatory T cells, were sensitive to AICD in breast and lung cancer microenvironments. NKILA, an NF-κB-interacting long noncoding RNA (lncRNA), regulates T cell sensitivity to AICD by inhibiting NF-κB activity. Mechanistically, calcium influx in stimulated T cells via T cell-receptor signaling activates calmodulin, thereby removing deacetylase from the NKILA promoter and enhancing STAT1-mediated transcription. Administering CTLs with NKILA knockdown effectively inhibited growth of breast cancer patient-derived xenografts in mice by increasing CTL infiltration. Clinically, NKILA overexpression in tumor-specific CTLs and TH1 cells correlated with their apoptosis and shorter patient survival. Our findings underscore the importance of lncRNAs in determining tumor-mediated T cell AICD and suggest that engineering lncRNAs in adoptively transferred T cells might provide a novel antitumor immunotherapy.