Lysosomes are acidic organelles that contain hydrolytic enzymes that mediate the intracellular degradation of macromolecules. Damage of these organelles often results in lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP) and the release into the cytoplasm of the soluble lysosomal contents, which include proteolytic enzymes of the cathepsin family. This, in turn, activates several intracellular cascades that promote a type of regulated cell death, called lysosome-dependent cell death (LDCD). LDCD can be inhibited by pharmacological or genetic blockade of cathepsin activity, or by protecting the lysosomal membrane, thereby stabilizing the organelle. Lysosomal alterations are common in cancer cells and may increase the sensitivity of these cells to agents that promote LMP. In this review, we summarize recent findings supporting the use of LDCD as a means of killing cancer cells.

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