Microenvironment-derived HGF overcomes genetically determined sensitivity to anti-MET drugs

Selma Pennacchietti, Manuela Cazzanti, Andrea Bertotti, William M. Rideout, May Han, Jeno Gyuris, Timothy Perera, Paolo M. Comoglio, Livio Trusolino, Paolo Michieli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cell-based drug screenings indicate that tumors displaying c-MET gene amplification are "addicted" to MET signaling and therefore are very sensitive to MET-targeted agents. However, these screenings were conducted in the absence of the MET ligand, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), which is abundant in the tumor microenvironment. Sensitivity of six MET-addicted human tumor cells to three MET kinase inhibitors (JNJ-38877605, PHA-665752, crizotinib) and one antagonistic anti-MET antibody (DN30 Fab) was analyzed in the absence or presence of HGF, in a stroma-tumor coculture system, and by combining anti-MET drugs with an HGF neutralizing antibody (ficlatuzumab) in human HGF knock-in mice bearing c-MET-amplified tumors. In all models examined, HGF promoted resistance to MET-targeted agents, affecting both their potency and efficacy. HGF-induced resistance was due to restoration of physiologic GAB1-mediated PI3K activation that compensated for loss of aberrant HER3-dependent PI3K signaling. Ficlatuzumab restored sensitivity to MET-targeted agents in coculture systems and overcame resistance to JNJ-38877605, crizotinib, and DN30 Fab in human HGF knock-in mice. These data suggest that c-MET-amplified tumor cells-which normally exhibit ligand-independent, constitutive MET activation-become dependent on HGF for survival upon pharmacologic MET inhibition. Because HGF is frequently overexpressed in human cancer, this mechanism may represent a major cause of resistance to anti-MET therapies. The ability of ficlatuzumab to overcome HGF-mediated resistance generates proof of principle that vertical inhibition of both a tyrosine kinase receptor and its ligand can be therapeutically beneficial and opens new perspectives for the treatment of MET-dependent tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6598-6609
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Research
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 15 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Medicine(all)


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