Tivantinib (ARQ197) displays cytotoxic activity that is independent of its ability to bind MET

Cristina Basilico, Selma Pennacchietti, Elisa Vigna, Cristina Chiriaco, Sabrina Arena, Alberto Bardelli, Donatella Valdembri, Guido Serini, Paolo Michieli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: MET, the high-affinity receptor for hepatocyte growth factor, is frequently deregulated in human cancer. Tivantinib (ARQ197; Arqule), a staurosporine derivative that binds to the dephosphorylated MET kinase in vitro, is being tested clinically as a highly selective MET inhibitor. However, the mechanism of action of tivantinib is still unclear. Experimental Design: The activity of tivantinib was analyzed in multiple cellular models, including: cells displaying c-MET gene amplification, strictly 'addicted' to MET signaling; cells with normal c-MET gene copy number, not dependent on MET for growth; cells not expressing MET; somatic knockout cells in which the ATP-binding cleft of MET, where tivantinib binds, was deleted by homologous recombination; and a cell system 'poisoned' by MET kinase hyperactivation, where cells die unless cultured in the presence of a specific MET inhibitor. Results: Tivantinib displayed cytotoxic activity independently of c-MET gene copy number and regardless of the presence or absence of MET. In both wild-type and isogenic knockout cells, tivantinib perturbed microtubule dynamics, induced G 2/M arrest, and promoted apoptosis. Tivantinib did not rescue survival of cells 'poisoned' by MET kinase hyperactivation, but further incremented cell death. In all cell models analyzed, tivantinib did not inhibit HGF-dependent or -independent MET tyrosine autophosphorylation. Conclusions: We conclude that tivantinib displays cytotoxic activity via molecular mechanisms that are independent from its ability to bind MET. This notion has a relevant impact on the interpretation of clinical results, on the design of future clinical trials, and on the selection of patients receiving tivantinib treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2381-2392
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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