Targeting autophagy in cancer

Nat Rev Cancer. 2017 Sep;17(9):528-542. doi: 10.1038/nrc.2017.53. Epub 2017 Jul 28.


Autophagy is a mechanism by which cellular material is delivered to lysosomes for degradation, leading to the basal turnover of cell components and providing energy and macromolecular precursors. Autophagy has opposing, context-dependent roles in cancer, and interventions to both stimulate and inhibit autophagy have been proposed as cancer therapies. This has led to the therapeutic targeting of autophagy in cancer to be sometimes viewed as controversial. In this Review, we suggest a way forwards for the effective targeting of autophagy by understanding the context-dependent roles of autophagy and by capitalizing on modern approaches to clinical trial design.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Autophagy / drug effects*
  • Autophagy / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Chloroquine / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Hydroxychloroquine / therapeutic use*
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Sequestosome-1 Protein / metabolism
  • Tumor Escape


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MAP1LC3A protein, human
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Sequestosome-1 Protein
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Chloroquine