Autophagy is a critical cellular process that generally protects cells and organisms from stressors such as nutrient deprivation. In addition to its role in normal physiology, autophagy plays a role in pathological processes such as cancer. Indeed, there has been substantial work exploring the complex and context-dependent role of autophagy in cancer. One of the emerging themes is that in certain cancer types, autophagy is important to support tumor growth; therefore, inhibiting autophagy as a therapeutic approach is actively being tested in clinical trials. A key mechanism of how autophagy promotes the growth and survival of various cancers is its ability to support cellular metabolism. The diverse metabolic fuel sources that can be produced by autophagy provide tumors with metabolic plasticity and can allow them to thrive in what can be an austere microenvironment. Therefore, understanding how autophagy can fuel cellular metabolism will enable more effective combinatorial therapeutic strategies.
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