The tyrosine kinase MET is a membrane receptor that is essential for embryonic development and wound healing in normal cells. Stimulation of MET by its natural ligand, the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), induces cell proliferation, migration, and invasion. Abnormal MET activation (over-expression of MET protein, amplification or mutations of the MET gene) has been observed in multiple human cancer types. We report herein the discovery of a potent and selective small molecule inhibitor (SAR125844) with potential therapeutic application in cancer patients with deregulated MET-dependent malignancies. Our initial hit identification approach was based on the biochemical screen of an in-house kinase inhibitor biased library where a series of benzimidazole sulfonate derivatives were identified with sub-micromolar MET inhibition. In particular, the initial hit exhibited an IC50 of 140 nM vs MET but it also had strong affinity for CDK9 (IC50= 6 nM), a CDK isoform involved in gene transcription. Chemical modifications of the series to dial out CDK9 affinity and remove potential normal cell cytotoxicity led to a more selective derivative with IC50's of 80nM and 1355nM vs MET and CDK9 respectively. Further sub-structural exploration allowed us to identify a heteorocyclic moiety which was shown by X-ray data to specifically interact with Tyr1230 in a non active conformation of the protein. The resulting highly favourable U-shape mode of binding in MET of representative examples from these series (e.g. IC50= 1nM) was not tolerated in CDK9 (IC50 > 10µM). Final multi-parametric medicinal chemistry optimisation led to SAR125844 with single digit nanomolar antiproliferative activity on MET-amplified cell lines. SAR125844 is highly selective for MET kinase in a panel of 275 kinases tested, with only 5 other protein kinases inhibited at IC50 values below 300 nM. This compound exhibits also satisfactory eADMET in vitro properties and has shown moderate total plasma clearance, large volume of distribution and moderate to long terminal elimination half-life in rats.

Citation Format: {Authors}. {Abstract title} [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 103rd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2012 Mar 31-Apr 4; Chicago, IL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2012;72(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 2911. doi:1538-7445.AM2012-2911