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International Journal of Breast Cancer
Volume 2011, Article ID 595092, 7 pages
Review Article

Autophagy: Friend or Foe in Breast Cancer Development, Progression, and Treatment

Research Area, Institute of Oncology “Angel H. Roffo”, University of Buenos Aires, C1417DTB Buenos Aires, Argentina

Received 29 April 2011; Accepted 11 July 2011

Academic Editor: Federico Coluccio Leskow

Copyright © 2011 Damian E. Berardi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Autophagy is a catabolic process responsible for the degradation and recycling of long-lived proteins and organelles by lysosomes. This degradative pathway sustains cell survival during nutrient deprivation, but in some circumstances, autophagy leads to cell death. Thereby, autophagy can serve as tumor suppressor, as the reduction in autophagic capacity causes malignant transformation and spontaneous tumors. On the other hand, this process also functions as a protective cell-survival mechanism against environmental stress causing resistance to antineoplastic therapies. Although autophagy inhibition, combined with anticancer agents, could be therapeutically beneficial in some cases, autophagy induction by itself could lead to cell death in some apoptosis-resistant cancers, indicating that autophagy induction may also be used as a therapy. This paper summarizes the most important findings described in the literature about autophagy and also discusses the importance of this process in clinical settings.