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.

Research Funding

  • June 1, 2007 - January 31, 2026 - Autophagy and Pro-metastatic Differentiation , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01CA126792
  • December 13, 2017 - November 30, 2022 - Stromal Fibroblast Autophagy In Tumor Progression and Desmoplasia , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01CA213775
  • September 15, 2017 - May 31, 2022 - Autophagy-dependent exosome loading and biogenesis in AD and FTD , Co-Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01AG057462
  • September 1, 2014 - August 31, 2020 - Autophagy as a microenvironmental regulator of tumorigenesis and resistance , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01CA188404


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

Honors & Awards

  • 2006
    Charles Culpeper Scholarship in the Medical Sciences, Partnership For Cures
  • 2006
    AACR Genentech Bio-Oncology Career Development Award
  • 2006
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Award For Physician Scientists
  • 2011-2016
    DOD Breast Cancer Research Program Era of Hope Scholar Award
  • 2013
    Elected Member, American Society of Clinical Investigation
  • 2016
    Keith Porter Fellow for Excellence in Cell Biology, American Society for Cell Biology
  • 2019
    Ramzi S. Cotran Visiting Professor, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
  • 2021
    Outstanding Investigator Award, American Society of Investigative Pathology

Selected Publications

  1. Phadatare P, Debnath J. Lysosomal lipid peroxidation mediates immunogenic cell death. J Clin Invest. 2023 04 17; 133(8).  View on PubMed
  2. Debnath J, Gammoh N, Ryan KM. Autophagy and autophagy-related pathways in cancer. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2023 08; 24(8):560-575.  View on PubMed
  3. Abeliovich H, Debnath J, Ding WX, Jackson WT, Kim DH, Klionsky DJ, Ktistakis N, Margeta M, Münz C, Petersen M, Sadoshima J, Vergne I. Where is the field of autophagy research heading? Autophagy. 2023 04; 19(4):1049-1054.  View on PubMed
  4. Gardner JO, Leidal AM, Nguyen TA, Debnath J. LC3-dependent EV loading and secretion (LDELS) promotes TFRC (transferrin receptor) secretion via extracellular vesicles. Autophagy. 2023 05; 19(5):1551-1561.  View on PubMed
  5. Nguyen TA, Debnath J. Control of unconventional secretion by the autophagy machinery. Curr Opin Physiology. 2022; 29:100595.  View on PubMed
  6. Tan A. Nguyen, Jayanta Debnath. Control of Unconventional Secretion By The Autophagy Machinery. Current Opinion in Physiology. 2022 Oct 1; 29:100595.  View on PubMed
  7. Debnath J, Leidal AM. Secretory autophagy during lysosome inhibition (SALI). Autophagy. 2022 10; 18(10):2498-2499.  View on PubMed
  8. Yang Y, Gomez M, Marsh T, Poillet-Perez L, Sawant A, Chen L, Park NR, Jackson SR, Hu Z, Alon N, Liu C, Debnath J, Guan JL, Davidson S, Verzi M, White E. Autophagy in PDGFRα+ mesenchymal cells is essential for intestinal stem cell survival. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 05 24; 119(21):e2202016119.  View on PubMed
  9. Solvik TA, Nguyen TA, Tony Lin YH, Marsh T, Huang EJ, Wiita AP, Debnath J, Leidal AM. Secretory autophagy maintains proteostasis upon lysosome inhibition. J Cell Biol. 2022 06 06; 221(6).  View on PubMed
  10. S. Paul, U. Bhunia, J. Debnath, M.K. Dey, A. Bandyopadhyay, S. Som. A beam dynamics study for efficient extraction from the VECC K500 superconducting cyclotron. Journal of Instrumentation. 2022 Mar 1; 17(03):p03029.  View on PubMed
  11. AACR Pathology Task Force. Pathology: Hub and Integrator of Modern, Multidisciplinary [Precision] Oncology. Clin Cancer Res. 2022 01 15; 28(2):265-270.  View on PubMed
  12. Liu JY, Lin YT, Leidal AM, Huang HH, Ye J, Wiita AP, Debnath J. GRASP55 restricts early-stage autophagy and regulates spatial organization of the early secretory network. Biol Open. 2021 10 15; 10(10).  View on PubMed
  13. Rudnick JA, Debnath J. Autophagy in host stromal fibroblasts supports tumor desmoplasia. Autophagy. 2021 12; 17(12):4497-4498.  View on PubMed
  14. Li H, Doric Z, Berthet A, Jorgens DM, Nguyen MK, Hsieh I, Margulis J, Fang R, Debnath J, Sesaki H, Finkbeiner S, Huang E, Nakamura K. Longitudinal tracking of neuronal mitochondria delineates PINK1/Parkin-dependent mechanisms of mitochondrial recycling and degradation. Sci Adv. 2021 Aug; 7(32).  View on PubMed
  15. Rudnick JA, Monkkonen T, Mar FA, Barnes JM, Starobinets H, Goldsmith J, Roy S, Bustamante Eguiguren S, Weaver VM, Debnath J. Autophagy in stromal fibroblasts promotes tumor desmoplasia and mammary tumorigenesis. Genes Dev. 2021 07 01; 35(13-14):963-975.  View on PubMed
  16. Kaur J, Goldsmith J, Tankka A, Bustamante Eguiguren S, Gimenez AA, Vick L, Debnath J, Vlahakis A. Atg32-dependent mitophagy sustains spermidine and nitric oxide required for heat-stress tolerance in Saccharomycescerevisiae. J Cell Sci. 2021 06 01; 134(11).  View on PubMed
  17. Kaur J, Goldsmith J, Tankka A, Eguiguren SB, Gimenez AA, Vick L, Debnath J, Vlahakis A. Atg32 dependent mitophagy sustains spermidine and nitric oxide required for heat stress tolerance in S. cerevisiae. J Cell Sci. 2021 May 26.  View on PubMed
  18. Mondal G, Debnath J. NRF2 activates macropinocytosis upon autophagy inhibition. Cancer Cell. 2021 05 10; 39(5):596-598.  View on PubMed
  19. Tulpule A, Guan J, Neel DS, Allegakoen HR, Lin YP, Brown D, Chou YT, Heslin A, Chatterjee N, Perati S, Menon S, Nguyen TA, Debnath J, Ramirez AD, Shi X, Yang B, Feng S, Makhija S, Huang B, Bivona TG. Kinase-mediated RAS signaling via membraneless cytoplasmic protein granules. Cell. 2021 05 13; 184(10):2649-2664.e18.  View on PubMed
  20. Leidal AM, Debnath J. Emerging roles for the autophagy machinery in extracellular vesicle biogenesis and secretion. FASEB Bioadv. 2021 May; 3(5):377-386.  View on PubMed

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