Therapeutic interactions of autophagy with radiation and temozolomide in glioblastoma: evidence and issues to resolve

Br J Cancer. 2016 Mar 1;114(5):485-96. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2016.19. Epub 2016 Feb 18.


Glioblastoma is a unique model of non-metastasising disease that kills the vast majority of patients through local growth, despite surgery and local irradiation. Glioblastoma cells are resistant to apoptotic stimuli, and their death occurs through autophagy. This review aims to critically present our knowledge regarding the autophagic response of glioblastoma cells to radiation and temozolomide (TMZ) and to delineate eventual research directions to follow, in the quest of improving the curability of this incurable, as yet, disease. Radiation and TMZ interfere with the autophagic machinery, but whether cell response is driven to autophagy flux acceleration or blockage is disputable and may depend on both cell individuality and radiotherapy fractionation or TMZ schedules. Potent agents that block autophagy at an early phase of initiation or at a late phase of autolysosomal fusion are available aside to agents that induce functional autophagy, or even demethylating agents that may unblock the function of autophagy-initiating genes in a subset of tumours. All these create a maze, which if properly investigated can open new insights for the application of novel radio- and chemosensitising policies, exploiting the autophagic pathways that glioblastomas use to escape death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Dacarbazine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Dacarbazine / therapeutic use
  • Glioblastoma / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents
  • Radiotherapy*
  • Temozolomide


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents
  • Dacarbazine
  • Temozolomide