The scatter factor/hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)-c-Met axis is involved in the malignant phenotype of various tumor types via activation of a wide range of autocrine and paracrine processes. Autocrine activation of tumor cell c-Met receptors enhances tumor cell proliferation, angiogenesis, invasion/metastasis and resistance to apoptosis and cytotoxic therapies. In addition, tumor and stroma cell-derived HGF functions as a potent angiogenic factor. Therefore, the HGF-c-Met axis is critically involved in multiple facets of normal cellular growth and homeostasis and activated in a dysregulated manner in a variety of cancers. Consequently, inhibiting the HGF-c- Met axis would be anticipated to have potent anti-tumor effects in many cancers through multiple complimentary mechanisms including increased sensitivity to current cytotoxic chemo-and radiotherapies. The acceptance of c-Met as a tractable target for cancer therapy has fostered intensive drug discovery efforts across the pharmaceutical industry. This research has led to 20 published crystal structures (with and without ligands) that revealed two distinct binding modes for ATP-competitive inhibitors: Type I ligands which assumes a U shape geometry through interactions with both hinge and activation loop residue Y1230, and Type II ligands which adopt a more extended orientation, either binding a conventional DFG-out conformation or protein conformations with varying degrees of ‘DFG-out’ character. Nearly a dozen small molecule c-Met inhibitors have entered human clinical trials ranging from Type I inhibitors solely selective for c- Met to Type I inhibitors with broader kinase activities to Type II inhibitors with “spectrum selective” kinase activity. The identification, profiles and properties of these clinical candidates are summarized in this review.
Keywords: Cancer, c-Met, kinase inhibitor, ligand-protein interactions, oncogene, tyrosine kinase, small molecule crystal structure
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