T cell receptor (TCR)-based immunotherapy has emerged as a promising therapeutic approach for the treatment of patients with solid cancers. Identifying peptide-human leukocyte antigen (pHLA) complexes highly presented on tumors and rarely expressed on healthy tissue in combination with high-affinity TCRs that when introduced into T cells can redirect T cells to eliminate tumor but not healthy tissue is a key requirement for safe and efficacious TCR-based therapies. To discover promising shared tumor antigens that could be targeted via TCR-based adoptive T cell therapy, we employed population-scale immunopeptidomics using quantitative mass spectrometry across ∼1500 tumor and normal tissue samples. We identified an HLA-A*02:01-restricted pan-cancer epitope within the collagen type VI α-3 (COL6A3) gene that is highly presented on tumor stroma across multiple solid cancers due to a tumor-specific alternative splicing event that rarely occurs outside the tumor microenvironment. T cells expressing natural COL6A3-specific TCRs demonstrated only modest activity against cells presenting high copy numbers of COL6A3 pHLAs. One of these TCRs was affinity-enhanced, enabling transduced T cells to specifically eliminate tumors in vivo that expressed similar copy numbers of pHLAs as primary tumor specimens. The enhanced TCR variants exhibited a favorable safety profile with no detectable off-target reactivity, paving the way to initiate clinical trials using COL6A3-specific TCRs to target an array of solid tumors.
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