Sonic Hedgehog in cancer stem cells: a novel link with autophagy
The Sonic Hegdehog/GLI (SHH/GLI) pathway has been extensively studied for its role in developmental and cancer biology. During early embryonic development the SHH pathway is involved mainly in pattern formation, while in latter stages its function in stem cell and progenitor proliferation becomes increasingly relevant. During postnatal development and in adult tissues, SHH/GLI promotes cell homeostasis by actively regulating gene transcription, recapitulating the function observed during normal tissue growth. In this review, we will briefly discuss the fundamental importance of SHH/GLI in tumor growth and cancer evolution and we will then provide insights into a possible novel mechanism of SHH action in cancer through autophagy modulation in cancer stem cells. Autophagy is a homeostatic mechanism that when disrupted can promote and accelerate tumor progression in both cancer cells and the stroma that harbors tumorigenesis. Understanding possible new targets for SHH signaling and its contribution to cancer through modulation of autophagy might provide better strategies in order to design combined treatments and perform clinical trials.