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Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism for intracellular substance degradation, responsible for the recycling of metabolic substances and the maintenance of intracellular stability. It has early been demonstrated to play a significant role in tumorigenesis, but whether it acts as a promoter or a suppressor during tumorigenesis seems to be context-specific. Moreover, autophagy is also implicated in promoting chemoresistance of cancer cells so as to attenuate therapeutic efficacy of chemotherapy. On the contrary, other reports highlight a tumor-killing role of autophagy during cancer treatment. Herein, this review aims to revisit the key features of autophagy, summarize the seemingly contradictory roles of autophagy during both tumorigenesis and cancer chemotherapy, and evaluate the feasibility of altering the level of cellular autophagy as part of cancer adjuvant treatment.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancer letters

Publication Date





115 - 127


Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Key Laboratory of Obstetrics & Gynecologic and Pediatric Diseases and Birth Defects of Ministry of Education, West China Second Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610041, PR China.


Humans, Neoplasms, Autophagy