MET as a potential target for the treatment of upper gastrointestinal cancers: characterization of novel c-Met inhibitors from bench to bedside

Curr Med Chem. 2014;21(8):975-89. doi: 10.2174/09298673113209990231.


The receptor tyrosine kinase mesenchymal-epithelial transition factor (c-Met) plays a pivotal role in regulation of cell proliferation and migration. Abnormal expression of c-Met has been associated with poor prognosis in several cancer types, including upper gastrointestinal malignancies. Moreover, c-Met interaction with multiple signalling pathways involved in tumor growth and invasive/metastatic phenotype has gained substantial attention in the last few years, suggesting the therapeutic potential of this target. This has led to the development and evaluation of a number of c-Met inhibitors. Here we describe the critical role of the HGF/c-Met pathway in cancer, as well as the preclinical and clinical investigations on c-Met inhibitors in solid tumors, with particular emphasis on recent findings with small-molecule inhibitors in gastrointestinal cancers. Clinical trials with several of these novel inhibitors have been encouraging and one of them, crizotinib (dual c-Met/ALK inhibitor), has recently been approved for lung cancers with ALK-rearrangement. There are accumulating evidences on the therapeutic potential of this and other c-Met inhibitors for the treatment of other malignancies, such as gastric and pancreatic cancers. These inhibitors might be used in combination with chemotherapy as well as with other biological agents, in order to overcome different resistance mechanisms. However, further studies are needed to identify determinants of the activity of c-Met inhibitors, through the analysis of genetic and environmental alterations affecting c-Met and parallel pro-cancer pathways. These studies will be critical to improve the efficacy and selectivity of current and future anticancer strategies targeting c-Met.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / pathology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • MET protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met