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Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2018, Article ID 8023821, 18 pages
Review Article

Autophagy Modulation in Cancer: Current Knowledge on Action and Therapy

1School of Medicine, University of Split, Šoltanska 2, 21000 Split, Croatia
2Faculty of Science, University of Split, Ruđera Boškovića 33, 21000 Split, Croatia

Correspondence should be addressed to Ivana Novak; rh.tsfem@kavon.anavi

Received 28 July 2017; Revised 13 November 2017; Accepted 14 December 2017; Published 31 January 2018

Academic Editor: Nikolai Engedal

Copyright © 2018 Mija Marinković 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.


In the last two decades, accumulating evidence pointed to the importance of autophagy in various human diseases. As an essential evolutionary catabolic process of cytoplasmatic component digestion, it is generally believed that modulating autophagic activity, through targeting specific regulatory actors in the core autophagy machinery, may impact disease processes. Both autophagy upregulation and downregulation have been found in cancers, suggesting its dual oncogenic and tumor suppressor properties during malignant transformation. Identification of the key autophagy targets is essential for the development of new therapeutic agents. Despite this great potential, no therapies are currently available that specifically focus on autophagy modulation. Although drugs like rapamycin, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, and others act as autophagy modulators, they were not originally developed for this purpose. Thus, autophagy may represent a new and promising pharmacologic target for future drug development and therapeutic applications in human diseases. Here, we summarize our current knowledge in regard to the interplay between autophagy and malignancy in the most significant tumor types: pancreatic, breast, hepatocellular, colorectal, and lung cancer, which have been studied in respect to autophagy manipulation as a promising therapeutic strategy. Finally, we present an overview of the most recent advances in therapeutic strategies involving autophagy modulators in cancer.