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      Pancreatic cancers require autophagy for tumor growth.

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          Abstract

          Macroautophagy (autophagy) is a regulated catabolic pathway to degrade cellular organelles and macromolecules. The role of autophagy in cancer is complex and may differ depending on tumor type or context. Here we show that pancreatic cancers have a distinct dependence on autophagy. Pancreatic cancer primary tumors and cell lines show elevated autophagy under basal conditions. Genetic or pharmacologic inhibition of autophagy leads to increased reactive oxygen species, elevated DNA damage, and a metabolic defect leading to decreased mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Together, these ultimately result in significant growth suppression of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro. Most importantly, inhibition of autophagy by genetic means or chloroquine treatment leads to robust tumor regression and prolonged survival in pancreatic cancer xenografts and genetic mouse models. These results suggest that, unlike in other cancers where autophagy inhibition may synergize with chemotherapy or targeted agents by preventing the up-regulation of autophagy as a reactive survival mechanism, autophagy is actually required for tumorigenic growth of pancreatic cancers de novo, and drugs that inactivate this process may have a unique clinical utility in treating pancreatic cancers and other malignancies with a similar dependence on autophagy. As chloroquine and its derivatives are potent inhibitors of autophagy and have been used safely in human patients for decades for a variety of purposes, these results are immediately translatable to the treatment of pancreatic cancer patients, and provide a much needed, novel vantage point of attack.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          Genes Dev
          Genes & development
          Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
          1549-5477
          0890-9369
          Apr 01 2011
          : 25
          : 7
          Affiliations
          [1 ] Division of Genomic Stability and DNA Repair, Department of Radiation Oncology, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.
          Article
          gad.2016111
          10.1101/gad.2016111
          3070934
          21406549
          e6e3e71b-ab99-4bb8-90a5-27318a038b9e

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