Targeting the MET oncogene by concomitant inhibition of receptor and ligand via an antibody-“decoy” strategy

Cristina Basilico, Chiara Modica, Federica Maione, Elisa Vigna, Paolo M. Comoglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


MET, a master gene sustaining “invasive growth,” is a relevant target for cancer precision therapy. In the vast majority of tumors, wild-type MET behaves as a “stress-response” gene and relies on the ligand (HGF) to sustain cell “scattering,” invasive growth and apoptosis protection (oncogene “expedience”). In this context, concomitant targeting of MET and HGF could be crucial to reach effective inhibition. To test this hypothesis, we combined an anti-MET antibody (MvDN30) inducing “shedding” (i.e., removal of MET from the cell surface), with a “decoy” (i.e., the soluble extracellular domain of the MET receptor) endowed with HGF-sequestering ability. To avoid antibody/decoy interaction—and subsequent neutralization—we identified a single aminoacid in the extracellular domain of MET—lysine 842—that is critical for MvDN30 binding and engineered the corresponding recombinant decoyMET (K842E). DecoyMETK842E retains the ability to bind HGF with high affinity and inhibits HGF-induced MET phosphorylation. In HGF-dependent cellular models, MvDN30 antibody and decoyMETK842E used in combination cooperate in restraining invasive growth, and synergize in blocking cancer cell “scattering.” The antibody and the decoy unbridle apoptosis of colon cancer stem cells grown in vitro as spheroids. In a preclinical model, built by orthotopic transplantation of a human pancreatic carcinoma in SCID mice engineered to express human HGF, concomitant treatment with antibody and decoy significantly reduces metastatic spread. The data reported indicate that vertical targeting of the MET/HGF axis results in powerful inhibition of ligand-dependent MET activation, providing proof of concept in favor of combined target therapy of MET “expedience.”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1774-1785
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2018


  • anti-HGF therapy
  • antibodies
  • decoy
  • MET oncogene
  • MET target therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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