ARQ 197-215 was a randomized placebo-controlled phase II study testing the MET inhibitor tivantinib in second-line hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients. It identified tumor MET as a key biomarker in HCC. Aim of this research was to study the prognostic and predictive value of tumor (MET, the receptor tyrosine kinase encoded by the homonymous MNNG-HOS transforming gene) and circulating (MET, hepatocyte growth factor [HGF], alpha-fetoprotein [AFP], vascular endothelial growth factor [VEGF]) biomarkers in second-line HCC. Tumor MET-High status was centrally assessed by immunohistochemistry. Circulating biomarkers were centrally analyzed on serum samples collected at baseline and every 4-8 weeks, using medians as cut-off to determine High/Low status. Tumor MET, tested in 77 patients, was more frequently High after (82%) versus before (40%) sorafenib. A significant interaction (p = 0.04) between tivantinib and baseline tumor MET in terms of survival was observed. Baseline circulating MET and HGF (102 patients) High status correlated with shorter survival (HR 0.61, p = 0.03, and HR 0.60, p = 0.02, respectively), while the association between AFP (104 patients) or VEGF (103 patients) status and survival was non-significant. Conclusions: Tumor MET levels were higher in patients treated with sorafenib. Circulating biomarkers such as MET and HGF may be prognostic in second-line HCC. These results need to be confirmed in larger randomized clinical trials.
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