Several environmental-associated stress conditions, including hypoxia, starvation, oxidative stress, fast growth and cell death suppression, modulate both cellular metabolism and autophagy to enable cancer cells to rapidly adapt to environmental stressors, maintain proliferation and evade therapies. It is now widely accepted that autophagy is essential to support cancer cell growth and metabolism and that metabolic reprogramming in cancer can also favor autophagy induction. Therefore, this complex interplay between autophagy and tumor cell metabolism will provide unique opportunities to identify new therapeutic targets. As the regulation of the autophagic activity is related to metabolism, it is important to elucidate the exact molecular mechanism which drives it and the functional consequence of its activation in the context of cancer therapy. In this review, we will summarize the role of autophagy in shaping the cellular response to an abnormal tumor microenvironment and discuss some recent results on the molecular mechanism by which autophagy plays such a role in the context of the anti-tumor immune response. We will also describe how autophagy activation can behave as a double-edged sword, by activating the immune response in some circumstances, and impairing the anti-tumor immunity in others. These findings imply that defining the precise context-specific role for autophagy in cancer is critical to guide autophagy-based therapeutics which are becoming key strategies to overcome tumor resistance to therapies.
- Immune response
- Tumor resistance