Autophagy, which could be either cytoprotective or cytotoxic, is often observed in tumor cells in response to chemotherapy. Understanding the signaling pathways involved in the regulation of autophagy represents a new direction in the development of anticancer therapies. Our recent studies investigate the role of autophagy in the anticancer effects of statins and histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi). Inhibition of autophagy enhances the efficacy of statins, whereas autophagic cell death in cancer cells is induced by HDACi. Here, we will discuss the differential signaling pathways elicited by statins and HDACi. We find that AMPK, cytoplasmic p21 and Akt signaling are crucial determinants of cell fates (i.e., life or death) while autophagy is induced.
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