It has been widely shown that the focal adhesion kinase (FAK) is involved in nearly every aspect of cancer, from invasion to metastasis to epithelial–mesenchymal transition and maintenance of cancer stem cells. FAK has been shown to interact with p14ARF (alternative reading frame)—a well-established tumor suppressor—and functions in the negative regulation of cancer through both p53-dependent and-independent pathways. Interestingly, both FAK and ARF (human and mouse counterpart) proteins, as well as p53, are involved in autophagy—a process of “self-digestion”—whose main function is the recycling of cellular components and quality control of proteins and organelles. In the last years, an unexpected role of p14ARF in the survival of cancer cells has been underlined in different cellular contexts, suggesting a novel pro-oncogenic function of this protein. In this review, the mechanisms whereby ARF and FAK control autophagy are presented, as well as the role of autophagy in cell migration and spreading. Integrated investigation of these cell functions is extremely important to understand the mechanism of the basis of cell transformation and migration and thus cancer development.
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