Human papilloma viruses (HPVs) are a group of double-stranded DNA viruses known to be the primary cause of cervical cancer. In addition, evidence has now established their role in non-melanoma skin cancers, head and neck cancer (HNC), and the development of other anogenital malignancies. The prevalence of HPV-related HNC, in particular oropharyngeal cancers, is rapidly increasing, foreseeing that HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers will outnumber uterine cervical cancers in the next 15–20 years. Therefore, despite the successful advent of vaccines originally licensed for cervical cancer prevention, HPV burden is still very high, and a better understanding of HPV biology is urgently needed. Autophagy is the physiological cellular route that accounts for removal, degradation, and recycling of damaged organelles, proteins, and lipids in lysosomal vacuoles. In addition to this scavenger function, autophagy plays a fundamental role during viral infections and cancers and is, therefore, frequently exploited by viruses to their own benefit. Recently, a link between HPV and autophagy has clearly emerged, leading to the conceivable development of novel anti-viral strategies aimed at restraining HPV infectivity. Here, recent findings on how oncogenic HPV16 usurp autophagy are described, highlighting similarities and differences with mechanisms adopted by other oncoviruses.
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