Scatter factors are unequivocal signals governing a genetic program that includes cell detachment, repulsion, protection from apoptosis, invasiveness of extracellular matrices and proliferation. This pleiomorphic response is defined as 'invasive growth'. Under physiological conditions, it leads to morphogenic cell movements through the matrix, and--primarily--to ordered building of epithelial tubules. Dysfunctions in invasive growth cause enhanced proliferation, uncontrolled migration into surrounding tissues, and failure to differentiate, events that foster tumour growth and invasiveness. Scatter factors act through tyrosine kinase receptors that belong to the Met oncogene family. Here we discuss how alterations of these receptors or of their signal transduction pathways are responsible for cancer onset and progression towards metastasis.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.