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Targeting autophagy in cancer management – strategies and developments

Authors Ozpolat B, Benbrook D

Received 13 July 2014

Accepted for publication 12 December 2014

Published 11 September 2015 Volume 2015:7 Pages 291—299


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 7

Editor who approved publication: Professor Kenan Onel

Bulent Ozpolat,1 Doris M Benbrook2

1Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas – Houston, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Oklahoma HSC, Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Abstract: Autophagy is a highly regulated catabolic process involving lysosomal degradation of intracellular components, damaged organelles, misfolded proteins, and toxic aggregates, reducing oxidative stress and protecting cells from damage. The process is also induced in response to various conditions, including nutrient deprivation, metabolic stress, hypoxia, anticancer therapeutics, and radiation therapy to adapt cellular conditions for survival. Autophagy can function as a tumor suppressor mechanism in normal cells and dysregulation of this process (ie, monoallelic Beclin-1 deletion) may lead to malignant transformation and carcinogenesis. In tumors, autophagy is thought to promote tumor growth and progression by helping cells to adapt and survive in metabolically-challenged and harsh tumor microenvironments (ie, hypoxia and acidity). Recent in vitro and in vivo studies in preclinical models suggested that modulation of autophagy can be used as a therapeutic modality to enhance the efficacy of conventional therapies, including chemo and radiation therapy. Currently, more than 30 clinical trials are investigating the effects of autophagy inhibition in combination with cytotoxic chemotherapies and targeted agents in various cancers. In this review, we will discuss the role, molecular mechanism, and regulation of autophagy, while targeting this process as a novel therapeutic modality, in various cancers.

Keywords: autophagy inhibition, chemotherapy, tumor microenvironment

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