Typical and Atypical Inducers of Lysosomal Cell Death: A Promising Anticancer Strategy

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Aug 1;19(8):2256. doi: 10.3390/ijms19082256.


Lysosomes are conservative organelles with an indispensable role in cellular degradation and the recycling of macromolecules. However, in light of recent findings, it has emerged that the role of lysosomes in cancer cells extends far beyond cellular catabolism and includes a variety of cellular pathways, such as proliferation, metastatic potential, and drug resistance. It has been well described that malignant transformation leads to alterations in lysosomal structure and function, which, paradoxically, renders cancer cells more sensitive to lysosomal destabilization. Furthermore, lysosomes are implicated in the regulation and execution of cell death in response to diverse stimuli and it has been shown that lysosome-dependent cell death can be utilized to overcome apoptosis and drug resistance. Thus, the purpose of this review is to characterize the role of lysosome in cancer therapy and to describe how these organelles impact treatment resistance. We summarized the characteristics of typical inducers of lysosomal cell death, which exert its function primarily via alterations in the lysosomal compartment. The review also presents other anticancer agents with the predominant mechanism of action different from lysosomal destabilization, the activity of which is influenced by lysosomal signaling, including classical chemotherapeutics, kinase inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, as well as photodynamic therapy.

Keywords: apoptosis; autophagy; drug resistance; lysosomal membrane permeabilization; lysosomes; lysosomotropic agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes / metabolism*
  • Lysosomes / pathology
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Photochemotherapy / methods*


  • Antineoplastic Agents