Apoptosis and autophagy are genetically regulated, evolutionarily-conserved processes that regulate cell fate; however, apoptosis invariably contributes to cancer cell death, whereas autophagy plays the Janus role of cancer cell survival and death. In this review, we firstly focus on targeting cancer cells via several key apoptotic pathways for anti-cancer therapy. Additionally, we demonstrate that some autophagic pathways play dual roles in cancer, and further elucidate the intricate relationship between apoptosis and autophagy. In summary, these findings may ultimately allow biologists to harness apoptotic and autophagic pathways as novel targets for cancer therapeutics.
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