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NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms


autophagy  listen  (aw-TAH-fuh-jee)

  A normal process in which a cell destroys proteins and other substances in its cytoplasm (the fluid inside the cell membrane but outside the nucleus), which may lead to cell death. Autophagy may prevent normal cells from developing into cancer cells, but it may also protect cancer cells by destroying anticancer drugs or substances taken up by them.