Jayanta Debnath, MD

Jayanta Debnath, MD

Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, UCSF


Phone: (415) 476-1780 (voice)
Box 0511, UCSF
San Francisco, CA 94143-0511

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Cancer Center Membership

Program Member » Breast Oncology

Research Summary

I am widely recognized for my expertise in autophagy, a tightly regulated cellular self-digestion process, and how this process regulates epithelial cell fate, oncogenic transformation, and carcinoma progression. I am a board-certified pathologist and completed post-doctoral training with Dr. Joan Brugge (Harvard Medical School), where I became known for my studies of oncogene regulation of cell death using three-dimensional (3D) organotypic culture systems. Since becoming faculty at UCSF in 2005, I have focused on the regulation of autophagy in cancer, publishing over 65 papers and invited reviews and receiving multiple extramural grants from the NCI, DOD, and private foundations. My laboratory pursues two broad goals: (1) to delineate the multifaceted roles of autophagy in adhesion independent survival and transformation in vitro, as well as on cancer progression and metastatic disease in vivo; and (2) to dissect the biochemical and in vivo physiological functions of the molecules that control autophagy (called ATGs) to ultimately exploit this process for therapeutic benefit.


Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, 1988-1992, Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Highest Honors
Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, 1992-1998, Doctor of Medicine, magna cum laude
National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, NIH-HHMI Scholar, 1995-1997, Biochemistry
Resident, Anatomic Pathology, Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 1998-2000
Clinical Fellow, Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 2000-2003
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, 2000-2005

Professional Experience

  • 2003-2005
    Instructor, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School.
  • 2005-2011
    Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, University of California San Francisco.
  • 2011-present
    Associate Professor (with tenure), UCSF Department of Pathology.

Honors & Awards

  • 1992
    Phi Kappa Phi Scholarship Cup (Valedictorian, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • 1995-1997
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute-National Institutes of Health Research Scholar
  • 1997-1998
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Award For Continuing Medical Studies
  • 1998
    Soma Weiss Medical Student Research Day Speaker Award, Harvard Medical School
  • 1998
    Honors in a Special Field, magna cum laude, Harvard Medical School
  • 2000-2003
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship For Physicians
  • 2003
    AACR Scholar-In-Training Award
  • 2006-2009
    Charles Culpeper Scholarship in the Medical Sciences, Partnership For Cures
  • 2006-2009
    AACR Genentech BioOncology Career Development Award
  • 2006-2011
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Award for Physician Scientists
  • 2006
    Stewart Family Trust Award UCSF Cancer Center
  • 2009
    Aspen Cancer Conference Fellow
  • 2011-2016
    DOD Breast Cancer Era of Hope Scholar Award
  • 2013
    Elected Member, American Society of Clinical Investigation
  • 2013-2014
    Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation (SWCRF) Award

Selected Publications

  1. Unique role for ATG5 in neutrophil-mediated immunopathology during M. tuberculosis infection. Nature. 2015 Dec 9.
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  2. Autophagy Devours the Nuclear Lamina to Thwart Oncogenic Stress. Dev Cell. 2015 Dec 7; 35(5):529-30.
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  3. Oxidative pentose phosphate pathway inhibition is a key determinant of antimalarial induced cancer cell death. Oncogene. 2015 Oct 5.
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  4. Autophagy at the crossroads of catabolism and anabolism. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2015 Aug; 16(8):461-72.
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  5. ATG12-ATG3 connects basal autophagy and late endosome function. Autophagy. 2015 Jun 3; 11(6):961-2.
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  6. Autophagy-independent senescence and genome instability driven by targeted telomere dysfunction. Autophagy. 2015 Mar 4; 11(3):527-37.
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  7. Autophagy in malignant transformation and cancer progression. EMBO J. 2015 Apr 1; 34(7):856-80.
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  8. ATG12-ATG3 interacts with Alix to promote basal autophagic flux and late endosome function. Nat Cell Biol. 2015 Mar; 17(3):300-10.
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  9. A nuclear option that initiates autophagy. Mol Cell. 2015 Feb 5; 57(3):393-5.
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  10. Loss of Atg12, but not Atg5, in pro-opiomelanocortin neurons exacerbates diet-induced obesity. Autophagy. 2015 Jan 2; 11(1):145-54.
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  11. Ironing out VPS34 inhibition. Nat Cell Biol. 2015 Jan; 17(1):1-3.
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  12. Ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation of ATG12 regulates its proapoptotic activity. Autophagy. 2014 Dec 2; 10(12):2269-78.
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  13. Cellular and metabolic functions for autophagy in cancer cells. Trends Cell Biol. 2015 Jan; 25(1):37-45.
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  14. Mouse models address key concerns regarding autophagy inhibition in cancer therapy. Cancer Discov. 2014 Aug; 4(8):873-5.
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  15. 'Doubling down' on the autophagy pathway to suppress tumor growth. Genes Dev. 2014 Jun 1; 28(11):1137-9.
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  16. Autophagy-dependent production of secreted factors facilitates oncogenic RAS-driven invasion. Cancer Discov. 2014 Apr; 4(4):466-79.
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  17. Autophagy and cancer metabolism. Methods Enzymol. 2014; 542:25-57.
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  18. Cancer: A suppression switch. Nature. 2013 Dec 12; 504(7479):225-6.
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  19. Oncogenic targeting of BRM drives malignancy through C/EBPß-dependent induction of a5 integrin. Oncogene. 2014 May 8; 33(19):2441-53.
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  20. I?B kinase complex (IKK) triggers detachment-induced autophagy in mammary epithelial cells independently of the PI3K-AKT-MTORC1 pathway. Autophagy. 2013 Aug; 9(8):1214-27.
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