Therapeutic anti-cancer activity of antibodies targeting sulfhydryl bond constrained epitopes on unglycosylated RON receptor tyrosine kinase

Oncogene. 2019 Nov;38(48):7342-7356. doi: 10.1038/s41388-019-0946-8. Epub 2019 Aug 15.


Recepteur d'origine nantais (RON) receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) and its ligand, serum macrophage-stimulating protein (MSP), are well-established oncogenic drivers for tumorigenesis and metastasis. RON is often found to be alternatively spliced resulting in various isoforms that are constitutively active. RON is therefore an attractive target for cancer therapeutics, including small molecular inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies. While small molecule inhibitors of RON may inhibit other protein kinases including the highly similar MET kinase, monoclonal antibodies targeting RON are more specific, potentially inducing fewer side effects. Although anti-RON monoclonal antibody therapies have been developed and tested in clinical trials, they were met with limited success. Cancer cells have been associated with aberrant glycosylation mechanisms. Notably for RON, the loss of N-bisected glycosylation is a direct cause for tumorigenesis and poorer prognosis in cancer patients. Particularly in gastric cancer, aberrant RON glycosylation augments RON activation. Here, we present a novel panel of monoclonal antibodies which potentially widens the specific targeting of not only the glycosylated RON, but also unglycosylated and aberrantly glycosylated RON. Our antibodies can bind strongly to deglycosylated RON from tunicamycin treated cells, recognise RON in IHC/IF and possess superior therapeutic efficacy in RON expressing xenograft tumours. Our most potent antibody in xenograft assays, is directed to the RON alpha chain and targets a sulfhydryl bond constrained epitope that appears to be cryptic in the crystal structure. This establishes the paradigm that such constrained and cryptic epitopes represent good targets for therapeutic antibodies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / immunology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Epitopes / immunology*
  • Female
  • Glycosylation
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / immunology*
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / chemistry*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • Epitopes
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • macrophage stimulating protein
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor
  • RON protein
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases