MET mutations in cancers of unknown primary origin (CUPs)

Giulia M. Stella, Silvia Benvenuti, Daniela Gramaglia, Aldo Scarpa, Anna Tomezzoli, Paola Cassoni, Rebecca Senetta, Tiziana Venesio, Ernesto Pozzi, Alberto Bardelli, Paolo M. Comoglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cancer of unknown primary origin (CUP) defines metastatic disease of unknown origin, accounting for 3-5% of all cancers. Growing evidence demonstrates that inappropriate execution of a genetic program named "invasive growth," driven by the MET oncogene, is implicated in the metastatic process. MET activation in cancers is mainly consequent to overexpression, whereas mutations are rarely found. We reasoned that the occurrence of MET somatic mutations might sustain premature occult dissemination of cancer cells, such as that observed in CUPs. We sequenced MET in genomic DNA obtained from 47 early metastatic cancers. By extensive immunohistochemical analysis a primary site was afterward postulated in 24 patients, whereas 23 cases remained of unknown primary (CUPs). MET somatic mutations were found in seven cases, all belonging to the CUP cohort. Mutational incidence (30%) was thus significantly higher than the expected one (4%), in the absence of high mutational background. Several nucleotide changes were novel and clustered either in the kinase domain or in the extracellular semaphorin domain. Mutated receptors were functional and sustained the transformed phenotype, suggesting that MET activating mutations are genetic markers associated with the CUP syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-50
Number of pages7
JournalHuman Mutation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • Invasive growth
  • MET
  • Metastases
  • Somatic mutation
  • Tyrosine kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)

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