Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and its receptor MET represent validated targets for cancer therapy. However, HGF/MET inhibitors being explored as cancer therapeutics exhibit cytostatic activity rather than cytotoxic activity, which would be more desired. In this study, we engineered an antagonistic anti-MET antibody that, in addition to blocking HGF/MET signaling, also kills MET-overexpressing cancer cells by antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). As a control reagent, we engineered the same antibody in an ADCC-inactive form that is similarly capable of blocking HGF/MET activity, but in the absence of any effector function. In comparing these two antibodies in multiple mouse models of cancer, including HGF-dependent and -independent tumor xenografts, we determined that the ADCC-enhanced antibody was more efficacious than the ADCC-inactive antibody. In orthotopic mammary carcinoma models, ADCC enhancement was crucial to deplete circulating tumor cells and to suppress metastases. Prompted by these results, we optimized the ADCC-enhanced molecule for clinical development, generating an antibody (ARGX-111) with improved pharmacologic properties. ARGX-111 competed with HGF for MET binding, inhibiting ligand-dependent MET activity, downregulated cell surface expression of MET, curbing HGF-independent MET activity, and engaged natural killer cells to kill MET-expressing cancer cells, displaying MET-specific cytotoxic activity. ADCC assays confirmed the cytotoxic effects of ARGX-111 in multiple human cancer cell lines and patient-derived primary tumor specimens, including MET-expressing cancer stem-like cells. Together, our results show how ADCC provides a therapeutic advantage over conventional HGF/MET signaling blockade and generates proof-of-concept for ARGX-111 clinical testing in MET-positive oncologic malignancies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research