Autophagy, a cellular process of "self-eating" by which intracellular components are degraded within the lysosome, is an evolutionary conserved response to various stresses. Autophagy is associated with numerous patho-ph ysiological conditions, and dysregulation of autophagy contributes to the pathogenesis of a variety of human diseases including cancer. Depending on context, activation of autophagy may promote either cell survival or death, two major events that determine pathological process of many illnesses. Importantly, the activity of autophagy is often associated with apoptosis, another critical cellular process determining cellular fate. A better understanding of biology of autophagy and its implication in human health and disorder, as well as the relationship between autophagy and apoptosis, has the potential of facilitating the development of autophagy-based therapeutic interventions for human diseases such as cancer.
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