Targeting Autophagy in ALK-Associated Cancers

Cancers (Basel). 2017 Nov 27;9(12):161. doi: 10.3390/cancers9120161.


Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved catabolic process, which is used by the cells for cytoplasmic quality control. This process is induced following different kinds of stresses e.g., metabolic, environmental, or therapeutic, and acts, in this framework, as a cell survival mechanism. However, under certain circumstances, autophagy has been associated with cell death. This duality has been extensively reported in solid and hematological cancers, and has been observed during both tumor development and cancer therapy. As autophagy plays a critical role at the crossroads between cell survival and cell death, its involvement and therapeutic modulation (either activation or inhibition) are currently intensively studied in cancer biology, to improve treatments and patient outcomes. Over the last few years, studies have demonstrated the occurrence of autophagy in different Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK)-associated cancers, notably ALK-positive anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), Neuroblastoma (NB), and Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS). In this review, we will first briefly describe the autophagic process and how it can lead to opposite outcomes in anti-cancer therapies, and we will then focus on what is currently known regarding autophagy in ALK-associated cancers.

Keywords: ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) oncogene; anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL); autophagic switch; combined therapy; cytoprotective autophagy; cytotoxic autophagy; neuroblastoma (NB); non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC); rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS); tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI).

Publication types

  • Review