Autophagy is a regulated catabolic process that leads to the lysosomal degradation of damaged proteins, organelles and other macromolecules, with subsequent recycling of bioenergetic intermediates. The role of autophagy in cancer is undoubtedly complex and likely dependent on tumor type and on the cellular and developmental context. While it has been well demonstrated that autophagy may function as a tumor suppressor, there is mounting evidence that autophagy may have pro-tumorigenic roles, e.g., promoting therapeutic resistance as well as survival under stresses such as hypoxia and nutrient deprivation. These two, seemingly disparate functions can be reconciled by a possible temporal role of autophagy during tumor development, initially suppressing tumor initiation yet supporting tumor growth at later stages.
S Yang, X Wang, G Contino, M Liesa, E Sahin, H Ying, A Bause, Y Li, JM Stommel, G Dell'antonio, J Mautner, G Tonon, M Haigis, OS Shirihai, C Doglioni, N Bardeesy, AC Kimmelman. Pancreatic cancers require autophagy for tumor growth. Genes Dev 2011; 25: 717- 29.
PMID: 21406549 DOI: 10.1101/gad.2016111