Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)-induced activation of its cell surface receptor, the Met tyrosine kinase, drives mitogenesis, motogenesis and morphogenesis in a wide spectrum of target cell types and embryologic, developmental and homeostatic contexts. Typical paracrine HGF/Met signaling is regulated by HGF activation at target cell surfaces, HGF binding-induced receptor activation, internalization and degradation. Despite these controls, HGF/Met signaling contributes to oncogenesis, tumor angiogenesis and invasiveness, and tumor metastasis in many types of cancer, leading to the rapid growth of pathway-targeted anticancer drug development programs. We review here HGF and Met structure and function, basic properties of HGF/Met pathway antagonists now in clinical development, and recent clinical trial results. Presently, the main challenges facing the effective use of HGF/Met-targeted antagonists for cancer treatment include optimal patient selection, diagnostic and pharmacodynamic biomarker development, and the identification and testing of effective therapy combinations. The wealth of basic information, analytical reagents and model systems available regarding normal and oncogenic HGF/Met signaling will continue to be invaluable in meeting these challenges and moving expeditiously toward more effective cancer treatment.

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