Autophagy or self-digestion of cells is activated upon various stressful stimuli and has been found to be a survival and drug resistance pathway in cancer. However, genetic studies support that autophagy can act as a tumor suppressor. Furthermore, defective autophagy is implicated in tumorigenesis, as well. The precise impact of autophagy on malignant transformation has not yet been clarified, but recent data suggest that this complex process is mainly directed by cell types, phases, genetic background and microenvironment. Relation of autophagy to anticancer immune responses may indicate a novel aspect in cancer chemotherapy.
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