Induction of cell death and inhibition of cell survival are the main principles of cancer therapy. Resistance to chemotherapeutic agents is a major problem in oncology, which limits the effectiveness of anticancer drugs. A variety of factors contribute to drug resistance, including host factors, specific genetic or epigenetic alterations in the cancer cells and so on. Although various mechanisms by which cancer cells become resistant to anticancer drugs in the microenvironment have been well elucidated, how to circumvent this resistance to improve anticancer efficacy remains to be defined. Autophagy, an important homeostatic cellular recycling mechanism, is now emerging as a crucial player in response to metabolic and therapeutic stresses, which attempts to maintain/restore metabolic homeostasis through the catabolic lysis of excessive or unnecessary proteins and injured or aged organelles. Recently, several studies have shown that autophagy constitutes a potential target for cancer therapy and the induction of autophagy in response to therapeutics can be viewed as having a prodeath or a prosurvival role, which contributes to the anticancer efficacy of these drugs as well as drug resistance. Thus, understanding the novel function of autophagy may allow us to develop a promising therapeutic strategy to enhance the effects of chemotherapy and improve clinical outcomes in the treatment of cancer patients.