Winning the War on Cancer?

There's reason to be skeptical—but optimistic as well.

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We do try to keep a sense of perspective around here. Despite the media din these days, it's worth remembering that there are some other stories at least as important as presidential elections and stock market crashes. Like a cure for cancer.

No, really. I know you've heard this before. The 40-year war on one of mankind's most enduring plagues has made measurable but frustratingly slow progress. Headlines about promising studies and supposed breakthroughs have still not amounted to a comprehensive theory of how to stop cancer from killing. Amid the fear, heartbreak, and false hope that attach to the word "cancer," one would be justified in treating the latest news with skepticism.

But there is good reason to think that we may have truly turned a corner, as our cover story, "Breaking Cancers Code," lays out. It is "an epiphany in medicine," writes our health editor, Bernadine Healy, a physician and cancer survivor herself. Within 10 to 20 years, we should be able to consider cancer a curable or manageable disease.

Sure, you're thinking: Ten to 20 years. Another pie-in-the-sky prediction. But we believe there really is something different this time. The answer is in the human genome. Medical science has made phenomenal progress in mapping and understanding genes and mutations, including the ones that cause cells to grow out of control. The challenge is the scale: It's now clear that each cancer must be treated on a patient-by-patient basis. But that's already happening, with successful new drugs and procedures accelerating rapidly.

As always, we try to give you the story from a policy and a personal angle. The cover package is just part of a huge archive of cancer-related information that we've compiled (along with thousands of pages of health topics). This includes our online ranking of the nation's top cancer centers (which you can find at health.usnews.com/cancerhospitals) as well as the best information about the various kinds of cancer and their treatments from experts at those centers (health.usnews.com/cancer). We know that curing cancer is a crucial societal issue but an infinitely more urgent crisis for those affected by the disease.

I'm interested in your thoughts on our coverage of the issue and the progress, or lack of it, in the war on cancer. Do you think this is just another false hope, or have we truly turned a corner? E-mail me at editor@usnews.com or join the comment fray below.

—Brian Kelly