Regulation and function of autophagy in pancreatic cancer

Jingbo Li, Xin Chen, Rui Kang, Herbert Zeh, Daniel J. Klionsky, Daolin Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Oncogenic KRAS mutation-driven pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is currently the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Macroautophagy (hereafter “autophagy”) is one of the lysosome-dependent degradation systems that can remove abnormal proteins, damaged organelles, or invading pathogens by activating dynamic membrane structures (e.g., phagophores, autophagosomes, and autolysosomes). Impaired autophagy (including excessive activation and defects) is a pathological feature of human diseases, including pancreatic cancer. However, dysfunctional autophagy has many types and plays a complex role in pancreatic tumor biology, depending on various factors, such as tumor stage, microenvironment, immunometabolic state, and death signals. As a modulator connecting various cellular events, pharmacological targeting of nonselective autophagy may lead to both good and bad therapeutic effects. In contrast, targeting selective autophagy could reduce potential side effects of the drugs used. In this review, we describe the advances and challenges of autophagy in the development and therapy of pancreatic cancer. Abbreviations: AMPK: AMP-activated protein kinase; CQ: chloroquine; csc: cancer stem cells; DAMP: danger/damage-associated molecular pattern; EMT: epithelial-mesenchymal transition; lncRNA: long noncoding RNA; MIR: microRNA; PanIN: pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia; PDAC: pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; PtdIns3K: phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase; SNARE: soluble NSF attachment protein receptor; UPS: ubiquitin-proteasome system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3275-3296
Number of pages22
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2021


  • Disease
  • lysosome
  • macroautophagy
  • pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
  • pdac
  • tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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