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Cancer—Treatment through the Continuum

Mark A. Hyman, MD

From the perspective of curative and preventive therapy, we have lost the war against cancer. Deaths from cancer are stable or increasing at 570,000 deaths in 2005.1 One in 3 people will get cancer in his or her lifetime.1 Given the average latent period of 30 years for solid tumors,2 17 million Americans are walking around with cancer that is somewhere along the continuum from initiation of a cancer cell to clinical manifestation of the disease.3

Clinical cancer care focuses almost entirely on eradicating the tumor through chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, none of which addresses cancer early in the continuum of its natural history. Emerging novel treatments, including vaccines and immunotherapy, hold promise. But are they enough? Are we focusing on latestage curative care and missing assessments and interventions that could change the landscape of cancer treatment and help those 17 million Americans prevent or reverse latent cancers?

In my oncology rotation in medical school, I asked my professor what percentage of cancers was related to diet and was shocked by his answer 70%.

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