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You are here: Home / Projects / Role of Autophagy in the Therapeutic Response of Breast Cancer Cells

Role of Autophagy in the Therapeutic Response of Breast Cancer Cells

To evaluate the potential of using autophagy inhibition to sensitize breast cancer cells to endocrine therapy and chemotherapy.

Project Leaders Sharon Gorski
Involved Organizations
Genome Sciences Centre
Funding Agencies
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation


Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and is responsible for the second highest cancer death rate in Canadian women. Innovative avenues of investigation are vital to better prevent, control and cure this disease. Recently, the process of macroautophagy, hereafter referred to as autophagy, has been implicated in various pathologies including tumorigenesis and its treatment. Autophagy, which literally means “self-eating”, is a vesicle-mediated cellular process of protein and organelle degradation. Autophagy functions to protect cells by enabling cell survival during nutrient starvation and stress conditions. In human MCF7 breast carcinoma cells, increased autophagy was observed in the surviving fraction following irradiation and also following treatment with the endocrine therapy agent tamoxifen. These observations suggest that autophagy may also be acting as a defence mechanism against such treatments and/or their cellular damaging effects. Thus, combining autophagy inhibition with these treatments may have therapeutic benefit. However, there remains a lack of evidence for the role of autophagy in breast cancer treatment. This project uses a siRNA-based approach to explore the role of autophagy in the response of breast cancer cells to currently used therapies.

Contact Information

For all project related inquires please contact us.

Karen Novik, Project Manager
Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Agency
Phone: 604-675-8000 x 7965
Fax: 604-675-8178