Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Unfolded Protein Response in Breast Cancer: The Balance between Apoptosis and Autophagy and Its Role in Drug Resistance

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


The unfolded protein response (UPR) is a stress response activated by the accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and its uncontrolled activation is mechanistically responsible for several human pathologies, including metabolic, neurodegenerative, and inflammatory diseases, and cancer. Indeed, ER stress and the downstream UPR activation lead to changes in the levels and activities of key regulators of cell survival and autophagy and this is physiologically finalized to restore metabolic homeostasis with the integration of pro-death or/and pro-survival signals. By contrast, the chronic activation of UPR in cancer cells is widely considered a mechanism of tumor progression. In this review, we focus on the relationship between ER stress, apoptosis, and autophagy in human breast cancer and the interplay between the activation of UPR and resistance to anticancer therapies with the aim to disclose novel therapeutic scenarios. The hypothesis that autophagy and UPR may provide novel molecular targets in human malignancies is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 16 2019



  • Apoptosis/genetics
  • Autophagy/genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms/genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm/genetics
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum/genetics
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress/genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction/genetics
  • Unfolded Protein Response/genetics

Cite this