Biomol Ther.  2020 Nov;28(6):503-511. 10.4062/biomolther.2020.155.

Dual Roles of Autophagy and Their Potential Drugs for Improving Cancer Therapeutics

  • 1College of Biomedical and Health Science, Konkuk University, Chungju 27478, Republic of Korea


Autophagy is a major catabolic process that maintains cell metabolism by degrading damaged organelles and other dysfunctional proteins via the lysosome. Abnormal regulation of this process has been known to be involved in the progression of pathophysiological diseases, such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. Although the mechanisms for the regulation of autophagic pathways are relatively well known, the precise regulation of this pathway in the treatment of cancer remains largely unknown. It is still complicated whether the regulation of autophagy is beneficial in improving cancer. Many studies have demonstrated that autophagy plays a dual role in cancer by suppressing the growth of tumors or the progression of cancer development, which seems to be dependent on unknown characteristics of various cancer types. This review summarizes the key targets involved in autophagy and malignant transformation. In addition, the opposing tumor-suppressive and oncogenic roles of autophagy in cancer, as well as potential clinical therapeutics utilizing either regulators of autophagy or combinatorial therapeutics with anti-cancer drugs have been discussed.


Autophagy; Cancer; Target; Anti-tumor drug; Combinational therapy
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