Research progress of EGFR inhibitors and autophagy in cancer treatment
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor treatment is a strategy for cancer therapy. However, innate or acquired resistance is a major obstacle of the efficacy. Autophagy is a self-digesting process in cells, which is considered to be associated with anti-cancer drug resistance. The activation of EGFR can regulate autophagy through multiple signal pathways. EGFR inhibitors can induce autophagy, but the specific function of the induction of autophagy by EGFR inhibitors remains biphasic. On the one hand, autophagy induced by EGFR inhibitors acts as a cytoprotective response in cancer cells, and autophagy inhibitors can enhance the cytotoxic effects of EGFR inhibitors. On the other hand, a high level of autophagy after treatment of EGFR inhibitors can also result in autophagic cell death lacking features of apoptosis, and the combination of EGFR inhibitors with an autophagy inducer might be beneficial. Thus, autophagy regulation represents a promising approach for improving the efficacy of EGFR inhibitors in the treatment of cancer patients.