- About this Journal ·
- Abstracting and Indexing ·
- Aims and Scope ·
- Article Processing Charges ·
- Articles in Press ·
- Author Guidelines ·
- Bibliographic Information ·
- Citations to this Journal ·
- Contact Information ·
- Editorial Board ·
- Editorial Workflow ·
- Free eTOC Alerts ·
- Publication Ethics ·
- Reviewers Acknowledgment ·
- Submit a Manuscript ·
- Subscription Information ·
- Table of Contents
International Journal of Hepatology
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 341636, 11 pages
Targeting the HGF-cMET Axis in Hepatocellular Carcinoma
1Division of Hematology-Oncology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 840 South Wood Street, Suite 820-E, MC 713, Chicago, IL 60612, USA
2Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program, Division of Hematology-Oncology, Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center, 777 Preston Research Building, Nashville, TN 37232-6307, USA
Received 28 November 2012; Accepted 11 March 2013
Academic Editor: Pierluigi Toniutto
Copyright © 2013 Neeta K. Venepalli and Laura Goff. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Under normal physiological conditions, the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and its receptor, the MET transmembrane tyrosine kinase (cMET), are involved in embryogenesis, morphogenesis, and wound healing. The HGF-cMET axis promotes cell survival, proliferation, migration, and invasion via modulation of epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. Hepatocellular cancer (HCC) is the third most common cause of worldwide cancer-related mortality; advanced disease is associated with a paucity of therapeutic options and a five-year survival rate of only 10%. Dysregulation of the HGF-cMET pathway is implicated in HCC carcinogenesis and progression through activation of multiple signaling pathways; therefore, cMET inhibition is a promising therapeutic strategy for HCC treatment. The authors review HGF-cMET structure and function in normal tissue and in HCC, cMET inhibition in HCC, and future strategies for biomarker identification.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the sixth most common malignancy worldwide and the third most common cause of global cancer related mortality [1, 2]. HCC burden disproportionately impacts developing countries and males; as of 2008, 85% of cases occurred in Africa and Asia, with worldwide male: female sex ratio of 2.4 . Risk factors for the development of HCC include chronic liver inflammation from hepatitis B and C infection, autoimmune hepatitis, excessive alcohol use, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, environmental carcinogens such as aflatoxin B, and genetic metabolic disease (such as hemochromatosis and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency). Prognostic and therapeutic options are dependent upon the severity of underlying liver disease, and median overall survival (OS) for metastatic or locally advanced disease is estimated at 5–8 months. HCC is relatively refractory to cytotoxic chemotherapy, likely due to overexpression of multidrug-resistant genes , protein products such as heat shock 70  and P-glycoprotein , and p53 mutations. Presently, systemic therapeutic options in the locally advanced or metastatic setting are limited to sorafenib, an oral multikinase inhibitor targeting Raf kinase, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor tyrosine kinase signaling.
Although the transition from normal hepatocyte to HCC is not fully understood, hepatocarcinogenesis is a complex multistep process driven by accumulation of heterogeneous molecular alterations from initial hepatocyte injury to metastatic invasion. Inflammation results in hepatocyte regeneration, which induces fibrosis and cirrhosis through cytokine release. Dysplastic nodules subsequently progress to early HCC through cumulative genetic alterations, while advanced HCC often involves intrahepatic metastasis and portal vein invasion. Molecular alterations implicated in HCC development include mutations in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes (p53 and p16), epigenetic alterations, chromosomal changes, and aberrant activation of signaling cascades necessary for proliferation, angiogenesis, invasion and metastasis, and survival. Pathogenesis of early and advanced HCC may be modulated through different mechanisms; for example, p53 mutations, p16 gene silencing, and aberrant AKT signaling are more frequently observed in advanced HCC [4–6]. The molecular pathogenesis of HCC is multifactorial and is reliant upon dysregulation of multiple pathways including WNT/b-catenin, mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), phosphatidylinositol-3 (PI3K)/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), VEGF, PDGF, insulin-like growth factor (IGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF), TGF-beta, and hepatocyte growth factor [6, 7].
The hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and its transmembrane tyrosine kinase receptor, cellular MET (cMET) promote cell survival, proliferation, migration, and invasion via modulation of epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. HGF-cMET signaling is critical for normal processes such as embryogenesis, organogenesis, and postnatal tissue repair after acute injury. HGF-cMET axis activation is also implicated in cellular invasion and metastases through induction of increased proliferation (mitogenesis), migration and mobility (motogenesis), three-dimensional epithelial cell organization (morphogenesis), and angiogenesis.
2. HGF-cMET Axis
HGF was first discovered in 1984 as a mitogenic protein for rat hepatocytes in vitro . HGF was subsequently found to be indistinguishable from scatter factor, a fibroblast-derived motility factor promoting epithelial cell dispersal  and three-dimensional branching tubulogenesis . HGF is secreted primarily by mesenchymal cells (or by stellate and endothelial cells in the liver) as an inactive single-chain precursor (pro-HGF) which is bound to heparin proteoglycans within the extracellular matrix . HGF transcription is upregulated by inflammatory modulators such as tumor necrosis factor alpha, IL-1, IL-6, TGF-beta, and VEGF [11, 12]. Circulating pro-HGF undergoes proteolytic conversion via extracellular proteases including HGF activator (HGFA), urokinase-type plasminogen activator, factors XII and XI, matriptase, and hepsin  into an active two-polypeptide chain heterodimeric linked by a disulfide bond. HGFA is a serine protease which is secreted primarily by the liver and circulates as pro-HGFA; pro-HGFA is activated by thrombin in response to tissue injury and malignant transformation [13, 14]. The active form of HGF includes an α-chain containing four kringle domains (K1 to K4) and an amino-terminal loop domain (N), and a β-chain (C-terminal) containing a serine protease homology (SPH) domain .
HGF is a ligand for the MET receptor, also known as cellular MET or cMET . The MET protooncogene was first isolated in 1984 from a human osteosarcoma-derived cell line driven by a chromosomal rearrangement TPR-MET, resulting from fusion of translocated promoter region located on chromosome 1q25 and MET sequence located on chromosome 7q31 . The TPR-MET rearrangement encodes for a prototype of the cMET receptor tyrosine kinase family. The cMET receptor is expressed predominantly on the surface of endothelial and epithelial cells of many organs, including the liver, kidney, prostate, pancreas, kidney, muscle, and bone marrow . Like HGF, cMET is synthesized as an inactive single-chain precursor and undergoes proteolytic cleavage into a disulfide linked heterodimer consisting of an extracellular α-chain and transmembrane β-chain. The β-chain contains an extracellular domain, transmembrane domain, and cytoplasmic portion. The extracellular domain includes an amino-terminal semaphorin domain, terminal cysteine-rich PSI domain, and four IPT repeat immunoglobulin domains . The cytoplasmic portion includes a juxtamembrane region including two phosphorylation sites, a tyrosine kinase (TK) domain and a carboxyl terminal region for substrate docking .
Under normal conditions, HGF interacts with cMET via a paracrine signaling loop and triggers cMET kinase activation within the cytoplasmic portion (see Figure 1). HGF contains two cMET binding sites including a high affinity constitutively active site on the α-chain (N-terminal and first kringle domain, or N-K1) and a low affinity site on the β-chain (C-terminal) [8, 19]. The exact mechanism of cMET receptor activation and the contribution of both binding sites to receptor activation by full length HGF are not yet established, although it is evident that both α- and β-chain sites have distinct functions. While α-chain N-K1 portion activates cMET and induces MET dimerization , β-chain residues bind cMET once the receptor is already occupied by HGF N-K4 and subsequently induce phosphorylation and downstream signaling .
HGF binding induces autophosphorylation of tyrosine residues Y1234 and Y1235 within the cMET TK domain activation loop. Phosphorylation also occurs at two sites within the carboxyl terminal region (Y1349 and Y1356), forming a multifunctional high affinity binding docking site that recruits a range of intracellular adaptors containing Src homology-2 domains [21–24]. An intact multifunctional docking site is necessary for malignant transformation. Recruited adaptor proteins and kinase substrates include growth factor receptor-bound protein 2 (Grb2), Grb2-associated binder (Gab1), phospholipase C-γ, STAT3, Shc, Src, Shp2, PI3K, and Ship1 [23, 24]. These and other adaptor proteins provide scaffolding for a larger apparatus of network proteins, ultimately promoting activation of multiple signaling pathways. Of these, Grb2 and Gab1 are critical effectors that interact directly with the receptor; Grb2 binding to the cMET docking site through Y1356 results in downstream signaling via the Ras/MAPK pathway, while Gab1 phosphorylation by MET kinase activates the PI3K pathway. Other signaling proteins that are activated by cMET include p38, JNK, and nuclear factor KB . Alterations in transcription induce cell cycle progression, antiapoptosis, increased cell motility, angiogenesis, and survival.
The HGF-cMET pathway serves as a hub for multiple heterogeneous signaling networks and is also modulated by the activation of other receptor TK families such as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor, Raf kinase, and VEGF .
3. HGF-cMET Activation and HCC Pathogenesis
The HGF-cMET pathway plays an essential role in mammalian development in terms of morphogenesis, mitogenesis, and motogenesis, and angiogenesis HGF-cMET signaling is likely to be critical in many aspects of adult homeostasis including cardiac and hepatic tissue injury repair [26, 27], skin wound repair , and skin immunity regulation .
Targeted disruption of the HGF or MET genes results in embryonically lethal knockouts with impaired organogenesis of the liver and placenta . Preclinical models demonstrate that HGF functions as a hepatotrophic factor enhancing hepatic regeneration and suppressing hepatocyte apoptosis [31, 32]; expression of HGF is increased in response to liver injury, while neutralization of endogenous HGF or MET knockout facilitates liver damage and fibrotic changes with delayed repair . Under normal physiologic conditions, HGF-induced cMET activation is strictly controlled by paracrine ligand delivery followed by ligand activation at target cell surfaces and ligand-activated receptor internationalization/degradation . Despite multiple checkpoints, HGF-cMET axis dysregulation occurs in a variety of solid tumors and hematopoietic derived malignancies and plays a key role in malignant transformation by promoting tumor cell migration, epithelial to mesenchymal transition, invasion, proliferation, and angiogenesis. Dysregulated cMET signaling upregulates protease production (plasminogen dependent and independent) and increased cell dissociation via extracellular matrix degradation, facilitating tumor invasiveness and metastasis . Mechanisms of pathogenic activation include aberrant paracrine or autocrine ligand production, overexpression of HGF and cMET, upregulation of genes encoding proteases for HGF/cMET processing , constitutive kinase activation independent of cMET gene amplification, and cMET gene mutations leading to ligand-independent kinase activity [34–36].
The HGF-cMET axis is implicated in hepatocarcinogenesis through multiple mechanisms, many of which are still being elucidated. Overexpression of HGF  and cMET [37–41] is observed in 33% and 20–48% of human HCC samples, respectively. The prognostic utility of cMET and HGF overexpression is uncertain; while some studies show no correlation between cMET overexpression and tumor size or invasive behavior [38, 42] or HGF levels and survival , others demonstrate an inverse relationship with survival. Specifically, cMET overexpression was found to correlate with poorly differentiated HCC  and increased intrahepatic metastases along with decreased five-year survival . After hepatectomy, cMET overexpression in HCC tissue has been correlated with early tumor recurrence, metastasis , and shorter 5-year survival [41, 45, 46]. A cMET-regulated gene expression signature was found to define a subset of human HCC with poor prognosis and aggressive phenotype and correlated with increased vascular invasion, increased microvessel density, and decreased mean survival time . Higher HGF levels negatively correlate with survival per biomarker analysis of the SHARP trial  and prior data  and positively correlate with tumor size ; however given that HGF is secreted as an inactive precursor, overexpression alone is unlikely to guarantee pathway dysregulation. HGF has also been investigated as a potential biomarker for HCC development , but may also be a specific marker for liver cirrhosis .
The role of MET mutations and gene amplifications in HCC pathogenesis is unclear. While gains in 7q have been reported in HCC , gene amplification has not been reported as a significant source of increased cMET . Somatic mutations have been observed in some cases of childhood HCC .
Crosstalk between cMET and EGFR [55, 56] and cMET and VEGF signaling pathways is also implicated in promoting tumor survival. cMET-cSrc has been shown to mediate EGFR phosphorylation and cell survival in the presence of EGFR inhibitors . cMET is both an independent angiogenic factor and interacts with angiogenic survival signals promoted through VEGF. By upregulating hypoxia-inducible factor, hypoxia results in increased HGF expression in tumor and surrounding normal interstitial cells and increased MET expression in tumor and endothelial cells. HGF-cMET signaling induces upregulation of tumoral VEGF expression and endothelial VEGFR2 expression and downregulation of endogenous inhibitors of angiogenesis [58, 59]. Dual VEGF and cMET axis activity demonstrates increased capillary formation in vivo, tubulogenesis in vitro, and tumoral microvessel density .
4. Pharmacologic cMET Inhibitors
Given the predominant role of dysregulated HGF-cMET signaling in hepatocarcinogenesis, pharmacologic cMET inhibition is a promising therapeutic strategy. Targets for inhibition of the cMET signal transduction pathway include ligand-receptor interaction, cMET kinase activity, and cMET and adaptor protein interaction. HGF-cMET axis inhibitors can be broadly classified into biologic antagonists, c-MET adaptor protein inhibitors, small-molecule downstream pathway inhibitors, and small synthetic MET tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI). Of these, TKIs are the most common and the only ones to have completed phase 2 testing in HCC as of March 2013. Table 1 shows the selected HGF-cMET inhibitors in active clinical trials for either HCC or advanced solid malignancies (including HCC) as of March 2013. A comprehensive listing of HGF-cMET inhibitors in active clinical trials for all malignancies is maintained by the Bottaro NCI Lab and is available at https://ccrod.cancer.gov/confluence/display/CCRHGF/Home.
Biologic antagonists inhibit cell surface interactions such as ligand-receptor binding or receptor clustering, preventing activation of downstream signaling. These include HGF competitive analogs, MET decoy receptor, and anti-HGF-cMET monoclonal antibodies. HGF competitive analogs compete with ligand for receptor binding without causing cMET dimerization and activation and include NK2 [60, 61], NK4 [62–64], and uncleavable HGF ; preliminary safety and drug development data in humans are pending. NK2 may be the least promising HGF competitive analog due to being a potent mitogen  and promoting metastases . MET decoy receptors are soluble forms of the cMET extracellular domain which compete with HGF and inhibit cMET dimerization; in vitro and in vivo mice models demonstrate suppression of HGF-induced tumor cell migration and metastasis [68, 69]. Currently, uncleavable HGF and decoy MET have been evaluated in preclinical models only. Monoclonal antibodies targeting HGF and the extracellular domain of cMET are currently being explored in clinical trials (see Table 1), but data are not yet available for HCC.
Given the importance of adaptor proteins in propagating downstream cMET signaling, cMET adaptor inhibitors offer unique potential for cMET specific inhibition . As described above, cMET signaling is initiated through autophosphorylation of cytoplasmic tyrosines that form docking sites for adaptor proteins. Grb2 and Gab1 are critical effectors that interact directly with the cMET receptor, ultimately recruiting a larger apparatus of network proteins necessary for cMET signaling. Gab1 couples with cMET directly via docking site interaction, or indirectly through Grb2 . Gab1 coupling with cMET requires Gab1 binding to the SH3 domain of Grb2, and cMET binding to the SH2 domain of Grb2 [72, 73]. C90 is a selective Grb2 antagonist with demonstrable inhibition of gastric cancer cell motility and matrix invasion in vitro and impaired metastatic spread of human prostate cancer cells in vivo; data in human studies have not been reported to date [74, 75].
Small-molecule downstream pathway inhibitors directed towards inhibition of STAT3 phosphorylation showed preliminary tolerability in a phase I trial of advanced solid tumors, but data are not yet available for HCC .
Synthetic small MET TKIs inhibit downstream signal transduction by preventing phosphorylation, either via competitive binding of the intracellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) site in cMET’s TK domain, or noncompetitive binding of a cMET region outside of the ATP binding site. While some of the TKIs in development are cMET specific, others target multiple pathways including VEGF, PDGFR, fms-related tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3), v-kit feline sarcoma viral oncogene homolog protein (KIT), and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK). Preclinical studies and clinical trials show tolerability and efficacy of cMET TKIs across a variety of solid malignancies. As of March 2013, promising results in the phase 2 randomized setting for HCC are available for two cMET inhibitors: tivantinib and cabozantinib.
5. cMET Inhibitors and HCC
Tivantinib (ARQ 197) is an oral low-molecular-weight TKI which is non-ATP competitive. Safety and tolerability without drug-related worsening of hepatic function were previously reported in a phase Ib trial of 20 cirrhotic patients (Child-Pugh A and B) with HCC, with 2 or less prior systemic chemotherapy regimens . Rimassa and colleagues reported results at ASCO 2012 of a phase II trial assigning 107 patients with unresectable HCC with ECOG PS 0-1 and Child-Pugh A in a 2 : 1 randomization to either second-line tivantinib or placebo with crossover allowed . Although no difference in median OS occurred, the primary endpoint of time to progression (TTP) was met and favored tivantinib versus placebo (6.6 versus 6.2 months, HR = 0.90, ; 6.9 versus 6 weeks, HR = 0.64, , resp.). Patients with high MET expression (defined as 50% or more cells in the tumor specimen with 2+ or 3+ staining intensity) versus low MET expression receiving tivantinib demonstrated a significant improvement in both OS and TTP (7.2 versus 3.8 months, HR 0.38 ; 11.7 versus 6.8 weeks, HR 0.43, , resp.). No detrimental effect was reported in patients with low MET expression, and common adverse events were neutropenia, asthenia, poor appetite, and anemia. As of November 2012, a phase III trial for tivantinib and HCC patients is in development.
Cabozantinib (XL 184) is an unselective oral multikinase TKI targeting cMET, KIT, rearranged during transfection (RET), VEGFR1 and 2 and 3, FLT3, AXL receptor tyrosine kinase (AXL), and Tie family angiopoietin 1 receptor . Cabozantinib has shown efficacy in the phase 3 setting for medullary thyroid carcinoma with progression-free survival (PFS) improvement and phase 2 setting for advanced solid tumors (including HCC). Verslype and colleagues reported preliminary results of a phase 2 randomized discontinuation study of cabozantinib in 41 patients with HCC, Child-Pugh score A, and one prior line of systemic treatment . All patients initiated cabozantinib for a 12-week lead in time frame; patients with partial response continued on study drug while patients with progression of disease discontinued. 32 patients with stable disease were blindly randomized 1 : 1 to continue cabozantinib or receive placebo. The primary endpoint was overall response rate (RR) during the lead in time phase and PFS for patients entering the randomization phase. Independent of prior sorafenib use, median OS was 15.1 months, median PFS was 4.4 months, and median time on study was 6 months. Common grade 3 adverse effects were hand-foot syndrome, diarrhea, and thrombocytopenia. MET expression was not evaluated prospectively, and given the broad activity of cabozantinib, it is unclear how much activity is attributable to MET inhibition alone.
In fact, the inhibition of both VEGF and MET concurrently may be particularly effective. VEGF inhibition leads to increased MET signaling, either from resultant hypoxia or direct interactions between VEGFR2 and MET [81, 82]. Concurrent inhibition of cMET and VEGF suppresses tumor invasion and metastasis . Preliminary evidence of efficacy against HCC was seen in a phase I combination study of tivantinib with sorafenib including a complete response and another prolonged partial response lasting greater than one year .
Table 1 notes ongoing trials with synthetic small MET TKIs. INC280 is a selective MET TKI in phase I testing for early HCC, currently accruing. Foretinib (GSK 1363089) is a small-molecule TKI targeting both MET and VEGF in phase I/II testing for advanced HCC.
6. Patient Selection for HGF-cMET Pathway Inhibition
Based on preclinical trials and phase 2 data for tivantinib and cabozantinib, inhibition of cMET signaling is a promising therapeutic strategy in HCC. Although it is unclear which genetic and molecular abnormalities implicated in HGF-cMET dysregulation are predictive of sensitivity to cMET targeted therapy, ongoing trials must address the challenge of identifying patients most likely to achieve maximal benefit and minimal toxicity. Two current strategies for patient selection based on tumor biomarkers are quantification of tumor cMET content via immunohistochemical (IHC) and immunoassay tissue analysis and assessment of MET sequence status. Pharmacodynamic serum markers are under evaluation in ongoing trials as a strategy to assess clinical response. Novel companion diagnostics are under evaluation in preclinical studies.
Tumoral cMET overexpression as measured by commercially available IHC kits appears to correlate with efficacy of cMET inhibitors in HCC and other solid tumors, although more prospective data are necessary for validation. Identification of cMET phosphorylation status is a potentially powerful target for targeted antibodies; two site immunoassays of flash-frozen tissue samples yielding precise measurements of MET content and phosphorylation activation are currently under development .
Another promising stratification strategy is assessment of MET sequence status including MET mutations, MET amplification, and chromosome 7 polysomy. Preclinical studies of cMET targeted agents demonstrate variable efficacy based on MET mutation location; for example, PF-2341066/4217903 is a selective inhibitor with increased activity against certain cMET ATP binding site mutations in comparison to MET kinase domain activation loop mutations . In vitro studies of SU11274, a small-molecule TK competitive ATP binding site inhibitor, show selective inhibition of two out of four identified MET mutations . Amplification of cMET is associated with increased clinical response to foretinib (XL 880) in phase 2 gastric cancer data, and cMET copy number correlates with increased clinical response to tivantinib in addition to erlotinib in advanced NSCLC .
Ancillary pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic marker studies in a variety of solid tumors show variable correlation with clinical response. Preclinical data with crizotinib in gastric cancer cell lines demonstrate variable biomarker modulation of cMET inhibition with cMET dependent gastric cancer cell lines versus cMET-independent lines [88, 89]. Clinical data shows changes in plasma concentrations of HGF, VEGF, soluble MET, soluble VEGFR2, PIGF, and EPO during treatment with various TKIs [90, 91]. The predictive utility of these biomarkers in patients with cMET-dependent HCC is unclear; further analyses and prospective validation are necessary.
HGF-cMET is an intriguing target for the development of companion diagnostic tools as an adjunct tool for patient selection and stratification for cMET therapy. In vitro and in vivo animal studies suggest that radiolabelled dyes containing cMET binding peptide successfully targets cMET receptors with higher imaged based tumor uptake . A variant of SU11274 with radiomethylation modification is being utilized as a PET visualization agent to quantify cMET receptor in xenograft models .
7. Conclusion and Future Directions
Inhibition of cMET is a promising therapeutic strategy in HCC. Given the heterogeneous mechanisms underlying cMET dysregulation, there is an urgent and unmet need for the development of predictive biomarkers to identify which subsets of cMET-dependent HCC tumors are most likely to benefit from specific classes of inhibitors. As more agents move into phase 2 and 3 trials for HCC, one important consideration is the emergence of acquired and primary resistance mechanisms from de novo or preexisting mutations. These may be overcome by rational combination therapy directed against multiple pathways, different levels of ligand-receptor-TKI interaction, and the presence of cMET addiction. Innovative clinical trial designs (such as the discontinuation cabozantinib design) with incorporation of enriched patient cohorts, biomarker analyses, pharmacodynamic markers, and companion diagnostics are essential in moving forward.
- International Agency for Research on Cancer, “Cancer incidence and mortality worldwide in 2008 (GLOBOCAN),” http://globocan.iarc.fr/.
- J. Ferlay, H. R. Shin, F. Bray, D. Forman, C. Mathers, and D. M. Parkin, “Estimates of worldwide burden of cancer in 2008: GLOBOCAN 2008,” International Journal of Cancer, vol. 127, no. 12, pp. 2893–2917, 2010.
- X. Chenivesse, D. Franco, and C. Brechot, “MDR1 (multidrug resistance) gene expression in human primary liver cancer and cirrhosis,” Journal of Hepatology, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 168–172, 1993.
- L. X. Qin, Z. Y. Tang, Z. C. Ma et al., “P53 immunohistochemical scoring: an independent prognostic marker for patients after hepatocellular carcinoma resection,” World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 459–463, 2002.
- A. M. Hui, M. Sakamoto, Y. Kanai et al., “Inactivation of p16(INK4) in hepatocellular carcinoma,” Hepatology, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 575–579, 1996.
- K. Nakanishi, M. Sakamoto, S. Yamasaki, S. Todo, and S. Hirohashi, “Akt phosphorylation is a risk factor for early disease recurrence and poor prognosis in hepatocellular carcinoma,” Cancer, vol. 103, no. 2, pp. 307–312, 2005.
- S. Whittaker, R. Marais, and A. X. Zhu, “The role of signaling pathways in the development and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma,” Oncogene, vol. 29, no. 36, pp. 4989–5005, 2010.
- T. Nakamura, K. Sakai, T. Nakamura, and K. Matsumoto, “Hepatocyte growth factor twenty years on: much more than a growth factor,” Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, vol. 26, supplement 1, pp. 188–202, 2011.
- M. Stoker, E. Gherardi, M. Perryman, and J. Gray, “Scatter factor is a fibroblast-derived modulator of epithelial cell mobility,” Nature, vol. 326, no. 6119, pp. 239–242, 1987.
- R. Montesano, K. Matsumoto, T. Nakamura, and L. Orci, “Identification of a fibroblast-derived epithelial morphogen as hepatocyte growth factor,” Cell, vol. 67, no. 5, pp. 901–908, 1991.
- M. A. Nalesnik and G. K. Michalopoulos, “Growth factor pathways in development and progression of hepatocellular carcinoma,” Frontiers in Bioscience, vol. S4, no. 4, pp. 1487–1515, 2012.
- J. Broten, G. Michalopoulos, B. Petersen, and J. Cruise, “Adrenergic stimulation of hepatocyte growth factor expression,” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, vol. 262, no. 1, pp. 76–79, 1999.
- L. J. Appleman, “MET signaling pathway: a rational target for cancer therapy,” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 29, pp. 4837–4838, 2011.
- T. Shimomura, J. Kondo, M. Ochiai et al., “Activation of the zymogen of hepatocyte growth factor activator by thrombin,” Journal of Biological Chemistry, vol. 268, no. 30, pp. 22927–22932, 1993.
- D. P. Bottaro, J. S. Rubin, D. L. Faletto et al., “Identification of the hepatocyte growth factor receptor as the c-met proto-oncogene product,” Science, vol. 251, no. 4995, pp. 802–804, 1991.
- P. Peschard and M. Park, “From Tpr-Met to Met, tumorigenesis and tubes,” Oncogene, vol. 26, no. 9, pp. 1276–1285, 2007.
- W. D. Tolbert, J. Daugherty-Holtrop, E. Gherardi, G. Vande Woude, and H. E. Xu, “Structural basis for agonism and antagonism of hepatocyte growth factor,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 107, no. 30, pp. 13264–13269, 2010.
- E. Gherardi, M. E. Youles, R. N. Miguel et al., “Functional map and domain structure of MET, the product of the c-met protooncogene and receptor for hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 100, no. 21, pp. 12039–12044, 2003.
- K. Matsumoto, H. Kataoka, K. Date, and T. Nakamura, “Cooperative interaction between α- and β-chains of hepatocyte growth factor on c-Met receptor confers ligand-induced receptor tyrosine phosphorylation and multiple biological responses,” Journal of Biological Chemistry, vol. 273, no. 36, pp. 22913–22920, 1998.
- W. D. Tolbert, J. Daugherty, C. Gao et al., “A mechanistic basis for converting a receptor tyrosine kinase agonist to an antagonist,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 104, no. 37, pp. 14592–14597, 2007.
- F. Cecchi, D. C. Rabe, and D. P. Bottaro, “Targeting the HGF/Met signaling pathway in cancer therapy,” Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets, vol. 16, pp. 553–572, 2012.
- P. M. Comoglio and C. Boccaccio, “Scatter factors and invasive growth,” Seminars in Cancer Biology, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 153–165, 2001.
- S. Corso, P. M. Comoglio, and S. Giordano, “Cancer therapy: can the challenge be MET?” Trends in Molecular Medicine, vol. 11, no. 6, pp. 284–292, 2005.
- Y. W. Zhang and G. F. Vande Woude, “HGF/SF-Met signaling in the control of branching morphogenesis and invasion,” Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, vol. 88, no. 2, pp. 408–417, 2003.
- G. R. Blumenschein, G. B. Mills, and A. M. Gonzalez-Angulo, “Targeting the hepatocyte growth factor-cMET axis in cancer therapy,” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 30, no. 26, pp. 3287–3296, 2012.
- C. G. Huh, V. M. Factor, A. Sánchez, K. Uchida, E. A. Conner, and S. S. Thorgeirsson, “Hepatocyte growth factor/c-met signaling pathway is required for efficient liver regeneration and repair,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 101, no. 13, pp. 4477–4482, 2004.
- T. Nakamura, S. Mizuno, K. Matsumoto, Y. Sawa, H. Matsuda, and T. Nakamura, “Myocardial protection from ischemia/reperfusion injury by endogenous and exogenous HGF,” Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol. 106, no. 12, pp. 1511–1519, 2000.
- J. Chmielowiec, M. Borowiak, M. Morkel et al., “c-Met is essential for wound healing in the skin,” Journal of Cell Biology, vol. 177, no. 1, pp. 151–162, 2007.
- J.-H. Baek, C. Birchmeier, M. Zenke, and T. Hieronymus, “The HGF receptor/met tyrosine kinase is a key regulator of dendritic cell migration in skin immunity,” Journal of Immunology, vol. 189, no. 4, pp. 1699–1707, 2012.
- Y. Uehara, O. Minowa, C. Mori et al., “Placental defect and embryonic lethality in mice lacking hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor,” Nature, vol. 373, no. 6516, pp. 702–705, 1995.
- K. I. Kosai, K. Matsumoto, S. Nagata, Y. Tsujimoto, and T. Nakamura, “Abrogation of Fas-induced fulminant hepatic failure in mice by hepatocyte growth factor,” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, vol. 244, no. 3, pp. 683–690, 1998.
- M. Borowiak, A. N. Garratt, T. Wüstefeld, M. Strehle, C. Trautwein, and C. Birchmeier, “Met provides essential signals for liver regeneration,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 101, no. 29, pp. 10608–10613, 2004.
- D. Tavian, G. De Petro, A. Benetti, N. Portolani, S. M. Giulini, and S. Barlati, “u-PA and c-MET mRNA expression is co-ordinately enhanced while hepatocyte growth factor mRNA is down-regulated in human hepatocellular carcinoma,” International Journal of Cancer, vol. 87, no. 5, pp. 644–649, 2000.
- C. Birchmeier, W. Birchmeier, E. Gherardi, and G. F. Vande Woude, “Met, metastasis, motility and more,” Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, vol. 4, no. 12, pp. 915–925, 2003.
- E. Lengyel, D. Prechtel, J. H. Resau et al., “c-Met overexpression in node-positive breast cancer identifies patients with poor clinical outcome independent of Her2/neu,” International Journal of Cancer, vol. 113, no. 4, pp. 678–682, 2005.
- G. A. Smolen, R. Sordella, B. Muir et al., “Amplification of MET may identify a subset of cancers with extreme sensitivity to the selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor PHA-665752,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 103, no. 7, pp. 2316–2321, 2006.
- A. Kiss, N. J. Wang, J. P. Xie, and S. S. Thorgeirsson, “Analysis of transforming growth factor (TGF)-α/epidermal growth factor receptor, hepatocyte growth factor/c-met, TGF-β receptor type II, and p53 expression in human hepatocellular carcinomas,” Clinical Cancer Research, vol. 3, no. 7, pp. 1059–1066, 1997.
- L. Boix, J. L. Rosa, F. Ventura et al., “c-met mRNA overexpression in human hepatocellular carcinoma,” Hepatology, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 88–91, 1994.
- S. Osada, M. Kanematsu, H. Imai, and S. Goshima, “Clinical significance of Serum HGF and c-Met expression in tumor tissue for evaluation of properties and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma,” Hepato-Gastroenterology, vol. 55, no. 82-83, pp. 544–549, 2008.
- K. Suzuki, N. Hayashi, Y. Yamada et al., “Expression of the c-met protooncogene in human hepatocellular carcinoma,” Hepatology, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 1231–1236, 1994.
- T. Ueki, J. Fujimoto, T. Suzuki, H. Yamamoto, and E. Okamoto, “Expression of hepatocyte growth factor and its receptor c-met proto-oncogene in hepatocellular carcinoma,” Hepatology, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 862–866, 1997.
- J. I. Okano, G. Shiota, and H. Kawasaki, “Expression of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and HGF receptor (c-met) proteins in liver diseases: an immunohistochemical study,” Liver, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 151–159, 1999.
- M. Daveau, M. Scotte, A. François et al., “Hepatocyte growth factor, transforming growth factor α, and their receptors as combined markers of prognosis in hepatocellular carcinoma,” Molecular Carcinogenesis, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 130–141, 2003.
- F. S. Wu, S. S. Zheng, L. J. Wu et al., “Study on the prognostic value of hepatocyte growth factor and c-met for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma,” Chinese Journal of Surgery, vol. 44, no. 9, pp. 603–608, 2006.
- A. W. Ke, G. M. Shi, J. Zhou et al., “Role of overexpression of CD151 and/or c-Met in predicting prognosis of hepatocellular carcinoma,” Hepatology, vol. 49, no. 2, pp. 491–503, 2009.
- Z. L. Wang, P. Liang, B. W. Dong, X. L. Yu, and D. J. Yu, “Prognostic factors and recurrence of small hepatocellular carcinoma after hepatic resection or microwave ablation: a retrospective study,” Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 327–337, 2008.
- P. Kaposi-Novak, J. S. Lee, L. Gòmez-Quiroz, C. Coulouarn, V. M. Factor, and S. S. Thorgeirsson, “Met-regulated expression signature defines a subset of human hepatocellular carcinomas with poor prognosis and aggressive phenotype,” Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol. 116, no. 6, pp. 1582–1595, 2006.
- J. M. Llovet, C. E. A. Peña, C. D. Lathia, M. Shan, G. Meinhardt, and J. Bruix, “Plasma biomarkers as predictors of outcome in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma,” Clinical Cancer Research, vol. 18, no. 8, pp. 2290–2300, 2012.
- P. Vejchapipat, P. Tangkijvanich, A. Theamboonlers, V. Chongsrisawat, S. Chittmittrapap, and Y. Poovorawan, “Association between serum hepatocyte growth factor and survival in untreated hepatocellular carcinoma,” Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 39, no. 12, pp. 1182–1188, 2004.
- H. Yamagamim, M. Moriyama, H. Matsumura et al., “Serum concentrations of human hepatocyte growth factor is a useful indicator for predicting the occurrence of hepatocellular carcinomas in C-viral chronic liver diseases,” Cancer, vol. 95, no. 4, pp. 824–834, 2002.
- Y. Liu, J. He, C. Li et al., “Identification and confirmation of biomarkers using an integrated platform for quantitative analysis of glycoproteins and their glycosylations,” Journal of Proteome Research, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 798–805, 2010.
- S. Costantini, F. Capone, E. Guerriero, P. Maio, G. Colonna, and G. Castello, “Serum cytokine levels as putative prognostic markers in the progression of chronic HCV hepatitis to cirrhosis,” European Cytokine Network, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 251–256, 2010.
- P. Moinzadeh, K. Breuhahn, H. Stützer, and P. Schirmacher, “Chromosome alterations in human hepatocellular carcinomas correlate with aetiology and histological grade—results of an explorative CGH meta-analysis,” British Journal of Cancer, vol. 92, no. 5, pp. 935–941, 2005.
- W. S. Park, S. M. Dong, S. Y. Kim et al., “Somatic mutations in the kinase domain of the MET/hepatocyte growth factor receptor gene in childhood hepatocellular carcinomas,” Cancer Research, vol. 59, no. 2, pp. 307–310, 1999.
- A. Guo, J. Villén, J. Kornhauser et al., “Signaling networks assembled by oncogenic EGFR and c-Met,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 105, no. 2, pp. 692–697, 2008.
- K. K. Velpula, V. R. Dasari, S. Asuthkar, B. Gorantla, and A. J. Tsung, “EGFR and c-Met cross talk in glioblastoma and its regulation by human cord blood stem cells,” Translational Oncology, vol. 5, no. 5, pp. 379–392, 2012.
- K. L. Mueller, L. A. Hunter, S. P. Ethier, and J. L. Boerner, “Met and c-Src cooperate to compensate for loss of epidermal growth factor receptor kinase activity in breast cancer cells,” Cancer Research, vol. 68, no. 9, pp. 3314–3322, 2008.
- X. Xin, S. Yang, G. Ingle et al., “Hepatocyte growth factor enhances vascular endothelial growth factor-induced angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo,” American Journal of Pathology, vol. 158, no. 3, pp. 1111–1120, 2001.
- Y. W. Zhang, Y. Su, O. V. Volpert, and G. F. Vande Woude, “Hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor mediates angiogenesis through positive VEGF and negative thrombospondin 1 regulation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 100, no. 22, pp. 12718–12723, 2003.
- Y. Yu and G. Merlino, “Constitutive c-Met signaling through a nonautocrine mechanism promotes metastasis in a transgenic transplantation model,” Cancer Research, vol. 62, no. 10, pp. 2951–2956, 2002.
- A. M. L. Chan, J. S. Rubin, D. P. Bottaro, D. W. Hirschfield, M. Chedid, and S. A. Aaronson, “Identification of a competitive HGF antagonist encoded by an alternative transcript,” Science, vol. 254, no. 5036, pp. 1382–1385, 1991.
- Y. Kishi, K. Kuba, T. Nakamura et al., “Systemic NK4 gene therapy inhibits tumor growth and metastasis of melanoma and lung carcinoma in syngeneic mouse tumor models,” Cancer Science, vol. 100, no. 7, pp. 1351–1358, 2009.
- Y. Suzuki, K. Sakai, J. Ueki et al., “Inhibition of Met/HGF receptor and angiogenesis by NK4 leads to suppression of tumor growth and migration in malignant pleural mesothelioma,” International Journal of Cancer, vol. 127, no. 8, pp. 1948–1957, 2010.
- K. Matsumoto and T. Nakamura, “NK4 gene therapy targeting HGF-MET and angiogenesis,” Frontiers in Bioscience, vol. 13, no. 5, pp. 1943–1951, 2008.
- M. Mazzone, C. Basilico, S. Cavassa et al., “An uncleavable form of pro-scatter factor suppresses tumor growth and dissemination in mice,” Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol. 114, no. 10, pp. 1418–1432, 2004.
- S. J. Stahl, P. T. Wingfield, J. D. Kaufman et al., “Functional and biophysical characterization of recombinant human hepatocyte growth factor isoforms produced in Escherichia coli,” Biochemical Journal, vol. 326, no. 3, pp. 763–772, 1997.
- T. Otsuka, J. Jakubczak, W. Vieira et al., “Disassociation of Met-mediated biological responses in vivo: the natural hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor splice variant NK2 antagonizes growth but facilitates metastasis,” Molecular and Cellular Biology, vol. 20, no. 6, pp. 2055–2065, 2000.
- P. Michieli, M. Mazzone, C. Basilico et al., “Targeting the tumor and its microenvironment by a dual-function decoy Met receptor,” Cancer Cell, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 61–73, 2004.
- M. Kong-Beltran, J. Stamos, and D. Wickramasinghe, “The Sema domain of Met is necessary for receptor dimerization and activation,” Cancer Cell, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 75–84, 2004.
- J. Gao, Y. Inagaki, P. Song, X. Qu, N. Kokudo, and W. Tang, “Targeting c-Met as a promising strategy for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma,” Pharmacological Research, vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 23–30, 2012.
- A. Chaudhuri, M.-H. Xie, B. Yang et al., “Distinct involvement of the Gab1 and Grb2 adaptor proteins in signal transduction by the related receptor tyrosine kinases RON and MET,” Journal of Biological Chemistry, vol. 286, no. 37, pp. 32762–32774, 2011.
- A. Bardelli, P. Longati, D. Gramaglia, M. C. Stella, and P. M. Comoglio, “Gab1 coupling to the HGF/Met receptor multifunctional docking site requires binding of Grb2 and correlates with the transforming potential,” Oncogene, vol. 15, no. 25, pp. 3103–3111, 1997.
- A. Giubellino, T. R. Burke, and D. P. Bottaro, “Grb2 signaling in cell motility and cancer,” Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets, vol. 12, no. 8, pp. 1021–1033, 2008.
- A. Giubellino, Y. Gao, S. Lee et al., “Inhibition of tumor metastasis by a growth factor receptor bound protein 2 Src homology 2 domain-binding antagonist,” Cancer Research, vol. 67, no. 13, pp. 6012–6016, 2007.
- N. Atabey, Y. Gao, Z. J. Yao et al., “Potent blockade of hepatocyte growth factor-stimulated cell motility, matrix invasion and branching morphogenesis by antagonists of Grb2 Src homology 2 domain interactions,” Journal of Biological Chemistry, vol. 276, no. 17, pp. 14308–14314, 2001.
- D. Oh, S. Han, T. M. Kim, et al., “A phase I, open-label, nonrandomized trial of OPB-31121, a STAT3 inhibitor, in patients with advanced solid tumors,” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 28, supplement, abstract e13056, 2010.
- P. Zucali, A. Santoro, C. Rodriguez-Lope, et al., “Final results from ARQ 197–114: a phase 1b safety trial evaluating ARQ 197 in cirrhotic patients (pts) with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC),” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 28, supplement 15, abstract 4137, p. 334s, 2010.
- L. Rimassa, C. Porta, I. Borbath, et al., “Tivantinib (ARQ 197) versus placebo in patients (Pts) with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) who failed one systemic therapy: results of a randomized controlled phase II trial (RCT),” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 30, supplement, abstract 4006, 2012.
- F. M. Yakes, J. Chen, J. Tan et al., “Cabozantinib (XL184), a novel MET and VEGFR2 inhibitor, simultaneously suppresses metastasis, angiogenesis, and tumor growth,” Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, vol. 10, no. 12, pp. 2298–2308, 2011.
- A. L. Cohn, R. K. Kelley, Y. Tasi-Shen, et al., “Activity of cabozantinib (XL 184) in hepatocellular carcinoma patients (pts): results from a phase II randomized discontinuation trial (RDT),” .Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 30, supplement 4, abstract 261, 2012.
- V. Lu Kan, P. Chang Jeffrey, A. Parachoniak Christine et al., “VEGF inhibits tumor cell invasion and mesenchymal transition through a MET/VEGFR2 complex,” Cancer Cell, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 21–35, 2012.
- B. Sennino, T. Ishiguro-Oonuma, Y. Wei et al., “Suppression of tumor invasion and metastasis by concurrent inhibition of c-Met and VEGF signaling in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors,” Cancer Discovery, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 270–287, 2012.
- R. E. Martell, I. Puzanov, W. W. Ma, et al., “Safety and efficacy of MET inhibitor tivantinib (ARQ 197) combined with sorafenib in patients (pts) with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) from a phase I study,” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 30, supplement, abstract 4117, 2012.
- M. L. Peach, N. Tan, S. J. Choyke et al., “Directed discovery of agents targeting the met tyrosine kinase domain by virtual screening,” Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 52, no. 4, pp. 943–951, 2009.
- S. F. Bellon, P. Kaplan-Lefko, Y. Yang et al., “c-Met inhibitors with novel binding mode show activity against several hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma-related mutations,” Journal of Biological Chemistry, vol. 283, no. 5, pp. 2675–2683, 2008.
- S. Berthou, D. M. Aebersold, L. S. Schmidt et al., “The Met kinase inhibitor SU11274 exhibits a selective inhibition pattern toward different receptor mutated variants,” Oncogene, vol. 23, no. 31, pp. 5387–5393, 2004.
- L. V. Sequist, J. Von Pawel, E. G. Garmey et al., “Randomized phase II study of erlotinib plus tivantinib versus erlotinib plus placebo in previously treated non-small-cell lung cancer,” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 29, no. 24, pp. 3307–3315, 2011.
- S. Yamazaki, J. Skaptason, D. Romero et al., “Pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic modeling of biomarker response and tumor growth inhibition to an orally available cMet kinase inhibitor in human tumor xenograft mouse models,” Drug Metabolism and Disposition, vol. 36, no. 7, pp. 1267–1274, 2008.
- D. Torti, F. Sassi, F. Galimi et al., “A preclinical algorithm of soluble surrogate biomarkers that correlate with therapeutic inhibition of the MET oncogene in gastric tumors,” International Journal of Cancer, vol. 130, no. 6, pp. 1357–1366, 2011.
- R. Kurzrock, S. I. Sherman, D. W. Ball et al., “Activity of XL184 (cabozantinib), an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor, in patients with medullary thyroid cancer,” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 29, no. 19, pp. 2660–2666, 2011.
- R. Srinivasan, T. K. Choueiri, U. Vaishampayan, et al., “A phase II study of the dual MET/VEGFR2 inhibitor XL880 in patients (ps) with papillary renal carcinma (PRC),” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 26, supplement 15, abstract 5103, p. 275s, 2008.
- E. M. Kim, E. H. Park, S. J. Cheong et al., “In vivo imaging of mesenchymal-epithelial transition factor (c-Met) expression using an optical imaging system,” Bioconjugate Chemistry, vol. 20, no. 7, pp. 1299–1306, 2009.
- C. Wu, Z. Tang, W. Fan et al., “In vivo positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET) receptor,” Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 139–146, 2010.