Immunopeptidomics is the survey of all peptides displayed on a cell or tissue when bound to human leukocyte antigen (HLA) molecules using tandem mass spectrometry. When attempting to determine the targets of tumour-specific CD8+ T cells, a survey of the potential ligands in tumour tissues is invaluable, and, in comparison with in-silico predictions, provides greater certainty of the existence of individual epitopes, as immunopeptidomics-confirmed CD8+ T-cell epitopes are known to be immunogenic, and direct observation should avoid the risk of autoreactivity which could arise following immunisation with structural homologues. The canonical sources of CD8+ T-cell tumour specific epitopes, such as tumour associated antigens, may be well conserved between patients and tumour types, but are often only weakly immunogenic. Direct observation of tumour-specific neoantigens by immunopeptidomics is rare, although valuable. Thus, there has been increasing interest in the non-canonical origins of tumour-reactive CD8+ T-cell epitopes, such as those arising from proteasomal splicing events, translational/turnover defects and alternative open reading frame reads. Such epitopes can be identified in silico, although validation is more challenging. Non-self CD8+ T-cell epitopes such as viral epitopes may be useful in certain cancer types with known viral origins, however these have been relatively unexplored with immunopeptidomics to date, possibly due to the paucity of source viral proteins in tumour tissues. This review examines the latest evidence for canonical, non-canonical and non-human CD8+ T-cell epitopes identified by immunopeptidomics, and concludes that the relative contribution for each of these sources to anti-tumour CD8+ T-cell reactivity is currently uncertain.

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