Unraveling the complexity of autophagy: potential therapeutic applications in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma

Gomez Mellado V, GIOVANNETTI E, Peters GJ.
Sem Cancer Biol 2015;35:11-9


Autophagy is a highly dynamic, evolutionary conserved cellular homeostatic process that occurs at baseline levels in most cells. It exerts predominantly cytoprotective effects by removing damaged organelles and protein aggregates. In cancer, however, autophagy acts as both a tumor suppressor by preventing ROS-induced tumorigenesis and as a tumor inducer by providing nutrients to tumor cells under hypoxic, low-energy conditions and protecting them against therapeutically induced stress. Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma is an extremely lethal and aggressive neoplasm with a 5 year-survival rate between 1% and 5%. One of the most important factors affecting its poor prognosis is its high resistance to most of the existing chemotherapeutic regimens. The role of autophagy in PDAC has been investigated by different research groups and the results are quite divergent; some research lines point at autophagy as a tumor promoting mechanism, whereas other studies assign oncosuppressive functions to it. Nevertheless, several distinct preclinical studies and clinical trials have evaluated the efficacy of both autophagy inducers and autophagy inhibitors as therapeutic compounds against PDAC, many of them providing promising results. Although a better understanding of the complexity of autophagy is needed, the modulation of this process opens new opportunities for prognostic and therapeutic purposes.

Link: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26408419