Cancer Biology

Autophagy in Cancer

Autophagy is an intra-cellular recycling process that sequesters cellular material into a specialised membrane bound vesicle (autophagosome) and delivers it to the lysosome for degradation and recycling of macro-molecules (illustrated below).

Constitutive autophagy is a necessary homeostatic process, which responds to metabolic demand and acts as a quality control process by removing aggregated material and damaged organelles. It can therefore be protective against cancer. However, in established cancers, autophagy takes on new roles and helps cancer cells to adapt and survive in growth limiting conditions and helps them to withstand and recover from chemotherapy. Inducing excessive autophagy leading to Type II cell death can also be a major mechanism for killing cancer cells. It is therefore imperative to understand how to negate the survival functions of autophagy and drive signalling in cancer cells towards a cell death process.  Autophagy also plays a major role in the differentiation and remodelling of cells. This process can also be defective in malignant cells enabling out-growth of immature cell types.

Current research in the Autophagy in Cancer group is aimed at modulating autophagy for therapeutic benefit. This includes evaluating how autophagy biomarkers can predict response to chemotherapy, identification of novel molecular targets and evaluation of novel treatment regimens to improve efficacy and overall outcome for cancer patients (Principal Investigators: Dr. Sharon McKenna & Dr. Tracey O’ Donovan).

Primary Cancer areas:

  • Oesophageal Cancer
  • Acute Myeloid Leukaemia
  • Ovarian Cancer

Oesophageal Cancer Research Group

Dr Orla Barry, Dr Tracey O'Donovan, Dr Sharon McKenna, Alana Cutliffe, Roisin Cassidy and Robert Hayes

Cancer Research @UCC

4th floor, Western Gateway Building , Western Road, Cork