Letter from the Editors

Issue 24 Winter/Spring 2015

Every year on the anniversary of the signing by President Nixon of the bill that began the War on Cancer in 1971, there appears a barrage of newspaper articles that lament the lack of progress that has occurred since that event. But is that truly so? Or have these writers simply chosen the wrong benchmarks on which to focus?

It is undeniable that progress towards "cures" have been slow, not nonexistent, but slow. But for many diseases where medicine has had success, notably the infectious illnesses, it has been in prevention that true success has occurred, with vaccination, hand washing and sanitation as the agents of change.

Our newsletter has chosen to re-focus the attention of our readers on just that arena, where some of the truly great successes of the War on Cancer have already occurred – tobacco cessation, hepatitis B vaccination, screening for a variety of cancers, HPV vaccination, genetic screening and counseling. Because of the long latency period of solid tumors, the full effects of these interventions has not yet fully manifested itself, but it will.

In today's issue of our Newsletter, we highlight yet one more blockbuster milestone in the War on Cancer, again on the prevention side. This discovery focuses on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), one of the most lethal malignancies in the world. The main cause of HCC has been viral hepatitis, both from hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Importantly, new cases of hepatitis B have been reduced by a preventive vaccine that started to be used in the 1980s. But hepatitis C remains the cause of approximately 25% of HCC. Now new discoveries in the lab have led to a remarkable drug combination targeting the hepatic C virus which appears to be curative in most individuals. The future widespread adoption of this regimen should further drop HCC in its prevalence and strike a strong blow against worldwide cancer incidence and mortality.

The Editors:

Alfred I. Neugut, MD, PhD
Myron M. Studner Professor of Cancer Research
Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology
Associate Director for Population Sciences
Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Mailman School of Public Health
Co-Director, Cancer Prevention Program
NewYork-Presbyterian Cancer Centers

Andrew J. Dannenberg, MD
Henry R. Erle, MD -Roberts Family Professor of Medicine
Weill Cornell Medical College
Co-Director, Cancer Prevention Program
NewYork-Presbyterian Cancer Centers