Therapeutic targeting of autophagy in cancer. Part II: Pharmacological modulation of treatment-induced autophagy

Anika Nagelkerke, Johan Bussink, Anneke Geurts-Moespot, Fred C G J Sweep, Paul N Span*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Autophagy, the catabolic pathway in which cells recycle organelles and other parts of their own cytoplasm, is increasingly recognised as an important cytoprotective mechanism in cancer cells. Several cancer treatments stimulate the autophagic process and when autophagy is inhibited, cancer cells show an enhanced response to multiple treatments. These findings have nourished the theory that autophagy provides cancer cells with a survival advantage during stressful conditions, including exposure to therapeutics. Therefore, interference with the autophagic response can potentially enhance the efficacy of cancer therapy. In this review we examine two approaches to modulate autophagy as complementary cancer treatment: inhibition and induction. Inhibition of autophagy during cancer treatment eliminates its cytoprotective effects. Conversely, induction of autophagy combined with conventional cancer therapy exerts severe cytoplasmic degradation that can ultimately lead to cell death. We will discuss how autophagy can be therapeutically manipulated in cancer cells and how interactions between the conventional cancer therapies and autophagy modulation influence treatment outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalSeminars in cancer biology
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Antineoplastic Agents/therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis/drug effects
  • Autophagy/drug effects
  • Cellular Senescence/drug effects
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms/drug therapy
  • Signal Transduction/drug effects
  • Treatment Outcome

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