Met Signaling in Carcinogenesis

  • Dinuka M. De Silva
  • Arpita Roy
  • Takashi Kato
  • Donald P. BottaroEmail author


The hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)/Met receptor tyrosine kinase signaling pathway is an essential regulator of cell proliferation, motility, and morphogenesis during embryogenesis, early development, and adult homeostasis. Signaling is directly regulated at several levels, including HGF proteolytic activation, receptor and proteoglycan binding, receptor phosphorylation, and ligand-receptor complex internalization and degradation. In many types of cancer, events that undermine these features can lead to aberrant pathway activation and contribute to oncogenesis, tumor angiogenesis and invasiveness, and tumor metastasis. Advanced drug design strategies and lessons learned from other growth factor/tyrosine kinase-targeted drug programs fueled the rapid development of potent and highly selective HGF/Met-targeted drug candidates. Meaningful clinical responses from early-phase clinical trials have been reported in lung, gastric, prostate, and papillary renal cancer patients treated with HGF and Met inhibitors. Yet, most of these agents have not advanced beyond phase II testing, a few stopped in phase III trials, and many HGF/Met-targeted drug development programs have been halted. No selective Met pathway inhibitors have been FDA approved for a disease where Met is thought to be a primary contributor. Underlying this unanticipated failure are a multitude of factors, but inadequate development of clinical tests for HGF/Met pathway activity and criticality appears to have been a critical weakness. This realization, our growing awareness of the molecular diversity of oncogenic defects in solid tumors, the need to modernize clinical trial design for testing highly targeted drugs as single agents, and the need to better translate combination therapies from model systems to human patients, should prevent us from discarding drugs that may have unrealized clinical utility, and help us identify indications and patients where they are most efficacious.


Met receptor tyrosine kinase Hepatocyte growth factor HGF Cancer Oncogene Cancer drug resistance Biomarker development Drug development 



Colorectal carcinoma


Epidermal growth factor receptor


Gastric carcinoma


Hepatocyte growth factor




Ig-like, plexins, transcription factors




Multiple myeloma


Macrophage stimulating 1 receptor


Overall survival




Progression-free survival


Papillary renal cell carcinoma


Plexins, semaphorins, and integrins


Renal cell carcinoma


Small lung cell cancer


Src homology-2


Tyrosine kinase


TK inhibitor


Translocated promoter region



This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH (ZIA BC011124 awarded to DPB), National Cancer Institute, Center for Cancer Research.

Disclosure Statement

The authors disclose no conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dinuka M. De Silva
    • 1
  • Arpita Roy
    • 1
  • Takashi Kato
    • 1
  • Donald P. Bottaro
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Urologic Oncology BranchNational Cancer InstituteBethesdaUSA

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