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World J Biol Chem. 2011 Oct 26;2(10):232-8. doi: 10.4331/wjbc.v2.i10.232.

Mechanisms of autophagy and apoptosis: Recent developments in breast cancer cells.

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  • 1Juan M Esteve, Erwin Knecht, Laboratorio de Biología Celular, Centro de Investigación Príncipe Felipe, Avda. Autopista del Saler 16, 46012-Valencia, Spain and CIBERER, Valencia, Spain.


Autophagy, the pathway whereby cell components are degraded by lysosomes, is involved in the cell response to environmental stresses, such as nutrient deprivation, hypoxia or exposition to chemotherapeutic agents. Under these conditions, which are reminiscent of certain phases of tumor development, autophagy either promotes cell survival or induces cell death. This strengthens the possibility that autophagy could be an important target in cancer therapy, as has been proposed. Here, we describe the regulation of survival and death by autophagy and apoptosis, especially in cultured breast cancer cells. In particular, we discuss whether autophagy represents an apoptosis-independent process and/or if they share common pathways. We believe that understanding in detail the molecular mechanisms that underlie the relationships between autophagy and apoptosis in breast cancer cells could improve the available treatments for this disease.


Apoptosis; Autophagy; Breast cancer cells; Signaling pathways; Survival

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