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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2010 Apr;22(2):241-5. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2009 Nov 27.

Autophagy and metastasis: another double-edged sword.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California San Francisco, CA, United States.


In order to metastasize, tumor cells must adapt to untoward, stressful microenvironments as they disseminate into the systemic circulation and colonize distant organ sites. Autophagy, a tightly regulated lysosomal self-digestion process that is upregulated during cellular stress, has been demonstrated to suppress primary tumor formation, but how autophagy influences metastasis remains unknown. Autophagy may inhibit metastasis by promoting antitumor inflammatory responses or by restricting the expansion of dormant tumor cells into macrometastases. Conversely, self-eating may promote metastasis by enhancing tumor cell fitness in response to environmental stresses, such as anoikis, during metastatic progression. Because autophagy is titratable, it may serve both prometastatic and antimetastatic functions depending on the contextual demands placed on tumor cells throughout the metastatic process.

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