Clinical relevance of autophagic therapy in cancer: Investigating the current trends, challenges, and future prospects

Oncophagy (cancer-related autophagy) has a complex dual character at different stages of tumor progression. It remains an important clinical problem to unravel the reasons that propel the shift in the role of oncophagy from tumor inhibition to a protective mechanism that shields full-blown malignancy. Most treatment strategies emphasize curbing protective oncophagy while triggering the oncophagy that is lethal to tumor cells. In this review, we focus on the trends in current therapeutics as well as various challenges in clinical trials to address the oncophagic dilemma and evaluate the potential of these developing therapies. A detailed analysis of the clinical and pre-clinical scenario of the anticancer medicines highlights the various inducers and inhibitors of autophagy. The ways in which tumor stage, the microenvironment and combination drug treatment continue to play an important tactical role are discussed. Moreover, autophagy targets also play a crucial role in developing the best possible solution to this oncophagy paradox. In this review, we provide a comprehensive update on the current clinical impact of autophagy-based cancer therapeutic drugs and try to lessen the gap between translational medicine and clinical science.