Targeting Autophagy Addiction in Cancer
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1 Harvard Radiation Oncology Program, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
2 Division of Genomic Stability and DNA Repair, Department of Radiation Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
Received: December 12, 2011; Accepted: December 15, 2011; Published: December 19, 2011;
Keywords: Autophagy, Ras, Metabolism, Cancer, tumor, therapy,
Alec Kimmelman, email:
Autophagy inhibition is a novel cancer therapeutic strategy in the early stages of clinical trial testing. The initial rationale for using autophagy inhibition was generated by research revealing that autophagy is upregulated in response to external stresses, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Combining autophagy inhibition with agents that induce autophagy as a pro-survival response may therefore increase their therapeutic efficacy. Recent research has shown that some cancer cells, particularly those driven by the K-Ras oncogene, also depend on elevated levels of autophagy for survival even in the absence of external stressors. In multiple in vitro as well as in vivo systems, oncogenic Ras-mediated transformation and tumor growth are dependent on autophagy to evade metabolic stress and cell death. These studies have subsequently led to further early phase clinical testing whether autophagy inhibition is a viable and effective strategy for targeting Ras-driven tumors. Even before the clinical results are available from these ongoing clinical trials, much work remains to optimally develop the approach of autophagy inhibition clinically; most notably reliably detecting levels of autophagy in human tumor samples, pharmacodynamics of currently available autophagy inhibitors (chloroquine and the derivative hydroxychloroquine), and new target identification and drug development.
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