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.