The Role of Autophagy in Cancer and Chemotherapy

Liu, He; He, Zhaoyue; Simon, Hans-Uwe (2016). The Role of Autophagy in Cancer and Chemotherapy. In: Hayat, M. (ed.) Autophagy: Cancer, Other Pathologies, Inflammation, Immunity, Infection, and Aging. Human Diseases: Vol. 8 (pp. 253-265). Academic Press 10.1016/B978-0-12-802937-4.00014-4

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Resistance to current chemo- and radiation therapy is the principal problem in anticancer treatment. Although intensively investigated, the therapeutic outcome is still far from satisfactory. Among the multiple factors which contribute to the drug resistance in cancer cells, the involvement of autophagy is becoming more and more evident. Autophagy describes a cellular self-digestion process, in which cytoplasmic elements can be selectively engulfed and finally degraded in autophagolysosomes to supply nutrients and building blocks for the cells. Autophagy controls cellular homeostasis and can be induced in response to stresses, like hypoxia and growth factor withdrawal. Since the essential physiological function of autophagy is to maintain cellular metabolic balance, dysregulated autophagy has been found associated with multiple diseases, including cancer. Interestingly, the role of autophagy in cancer is two-sided; it can be pro- or antitumor. Autophagy can suppress tumor formation, for example, by controlling cell proliferation and the production of reactive oxygen species. On the other hand, autophagy can provide nutrients to the tumor cells to support tumor growth under nutrition-limiting conditions, thereby promoting tumor development. This ambivalent behavior is also evident in anticancer therapy: By inducing autophagic cell death, autophagy has been shown to potentiate the cytotoxicity of chemotherapeutic drugs, but autophagy has also been linked to drug resistance, since inhibiting autophagy has been found to sensitize tumor cells toward anticancer drug-induced cell death. In this chapter, we will focus on the dual role of autophagy in tumorigenesis and chemotherapy, will classify autophagy inducers and inhibitors used in anticancer treatment, and will discuss topics related to future drug development which have arisen.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Pharmacology

UniBE Contributor:

Liu, He, He, Zhaoyue (A), Simon, Hans-Uwe


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Human Diseases


Academic Press




Debora Scherrer

Date Deposited:

03 Feb 2016 13:17

Last Modified:

29 Mar 2023 23:34

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Autophagy, cancer, chemotherapy, anticancer, tumorigenesis, autophagy inducers, autophagy inhibitors


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