Book Review: A New Strategy for the War On Cancer



by Terry Thompson. His wife died of breast cancer, his eldest brother died of lung cancer and another brother died of a rare cancer that attacked his heart. Thompson is a retired colonel in the US Air Force. He was also a staff pastor of a large church. Later he became the GM of a nationally syndicated outdoor sports TV program. He is professor of John Brown University, a private, Christian liberal arts college in Arkansas, USA.

Why Write This Book

…at the time she (Connie, wife) was first diagnosed with breast cancer … We assumed that the narrow application of conventional treatment prescribed by our oncologist was the only option. In fact, this assumption drove our approach to her treatment for almost three years. Until just prior to her death, we continued to believe that conventional medicine alone was the only choice we had. There was never any advice offered concerning CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine). We were not advised about diet, immune system enhancement, supplemental vitamins and herbs, … etc. We had been prescribed the traditional standard treatment of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, and we never considered that there could be other therapy options or complements.

Cancer will touch your life – hopefully indirectly, but likely directly. The knowledge you gain about it, and what you choose to do with that knowledge, will make a huge difference in your response to the disease. It will make a difference in your personal life and in the lives of your closest loved ones. Your knowledge and actions can save or enhance the lives of present and future generations.


  • According to the World Health Organization, about 12.3 million people worldwide will develop cancer this year. Of those, 7.6 million will die from the disease – more than 20,000 each day.
  • In the US, over 1,500 cancer victims die each day from the disease. That is over 560,000 cancer deaths per year.
  • In America 140,000 people die each year from FDA approved drugs.
  • It takes an average of about 12 years and costs over $800 million to process one drug through America’s new medicines approval system.
  • Over 18 million people have died of cancer since 1971 (when the war on cancer was declared by US President Nixon). That is 16 times more cancer deaths than the number of deaths from all of our nation’s wars combined.

Reality of the War on Cancer Today

We are in a war that has been waged for nearly a half century at immeasurable cost … and lives with seemingly little hope for victory. A battle is won here, and some ground is gained there, but, by-and-large, we’re mired down in a war that has been going on since before most of us were born …we are in a seemingly endless marathon, and the enemy is winning.

The plan depends on a trilogy of conventional medicine: chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery… my position is that the traditional strategy to defeat cancer … is powerless. It is ineffective. Conventional oncologists must stop limiting their methodologies repertoire to those of the last century… we absolutely must – find a more promising way to wage this war… We cannot just keep fighting a losing battle… It is time to deploy the unconventional forces.

The unbearable pain and morbid bodily disfigurement made the treatment much worse than the disease in many cases.

Aggressive Medical Treatment

Philosophy of the United States’ medical culture: aggressive, “if in doubt, do a lot.” But aggressiveness is not always a good thing, especially in conventional cancer treatment … European doctors will almost always opt for a gentler approach.  The differences are because of their national culture, history and medical training. American medicine is aggressive partly because doctors are trained to be aggressive but also because many patients equate aggressive with better.

Most medical practices are reflections of culture – culture of the physicians and culture of the patients.

The Public Spin

…There is a need to put the best face on a war … the leadership hierarchy purposely avoids  stating the obvious, choosing instead to focus on the incremental advances that are taking place.  The major institutions and organization of the medical community regularly make celebrative announcements about new positive cancer findings and statistics.

…the fact that a few more people are surviving cancer has little to do with treatment breakthroughs and everything to do with earlier diagnosis and a healthier lifestyle… exercise, better nutrition, and ending bad habits prevent the occurrence of cancer.

Root of the Problem – Resistance to Change

A quagmire is ground that is mushy causing anyone attempting to pass over it to sink into it. It renders the person almost unable to move if not completely stuck. I believe the quagmire … applies to the war on cancer. What seemed promising decades ago has not materialised as the ultimate solution, yet the medical community continues, to pursue the course with limited results.

We are in a quagmire in the war against cancer. We are slipping, spinning around, and bogging down. Yet, many call it progress …It is time for a strategy change.

To rescue ourselves from a quagmire, we must understand what got us to that point, then try to determine why we’re still there.

Conventional thinking in medical world seems to be extremely difficult to change, regardless of the evidence. The syndrome tends to prevail that, if we have been doing it this way for years, it can’t be wrong. The status quo is usually the easiest course, but seldom the best.

Genuine progress in medicine, particularly cancer treatment, is being restrained by old thinking about new strategies. The established practitioners generally stand in staunch defenses of their methodologies.

We have to conclude that the lack of progress in cancer treatment is not a capability issue, not a motivational issue, not a science issue, and not a resources issue. Then what is it? In a word: it is politics. It is quite a paradox that a nation founded on the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness finds little of the three reflected in its approach to health care. Regarding liberty, it controls its doctors’ practices and prescriptions, by legislation, policy, or culture more restrictively than most other places in the world. Regarding the pursuit of happiness, its citizens have less control over their treatment choices than almost anyone anywhere else.

I can’t point a finger at any individual, or any group of individuals and say that is why we are not making headway against cancer. The problem is much larger than that. It is an institutional culture that has been building for many decades… products of an environment that has standards and strategies established by the most powerful secular influences on earth. The institutions of medicine, pharmaceuticals, and government form a train that is seemingly unstoppable… This express train that moves the largest industry in America has reached cruise speed, everyone on it – practitioners and patients alike – are just going along for the ride.

A major political paradigm shift is critical to winning the cancer war. Congress, the FDA (Food and Drug Administratioin), the AMA (American Medical Association), the NIH / NCI (National Institute of Health/National Cancer Institute), the ACS (American Cancer Society) as well as prominent cancer centers and medical schools must accept natural , non-pharmacological cancer treatment options. They must be convinced that these options are a necessary and integral part of the overall war strategy. They need to take a hard, honest look at the lack of progress in our ability to overcome the disease over the past several decades. Such a shift would begin with the medical establishment acknowledging the slow progress of the last half-century and that headway could be gained by looking beyond the traditional, conventional treatment options.

Hope for Success

Real hope must lie in more than the limited successes that conventional treatment has produced. Real hope will come with substantially more resources directed toward Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) research, and that isn’t happening. My best estimate is that CAM cancer research receives only about 1% of all cancer research grants … our nation allocate about 99% to conventional (medicine).

It is time for the established medical community to look outside the conventional medicine box to explore the vast realm of integrative possibilities… Nutrition for cancer patients is criitical. Yet, nutrition seldom receives high priority in conventional cancer treatment. Many oncologists remain skeptical about the efficacy of a particular diet in relation to treatment. Unfortunately, too frequently, conventional medical advice suggests that patients eat whatever they want. Acting on this advice can actually feed the patient’s cancer, promote their malnutrition, and contribute to the patient’s inability to tolerate treatment.

How Much Evidence Is Enough?

Shouldn’t acceptable evidence include both modern scientific research AND the experience of hundreds of years of practice? I submit that anecdotal or testimonial, justification for the use of a product or procedure should be a consideration. Granted, anecdotal data alone should not be the sole basis for agency approval, but it should be a major factor.

If enough people get the same results from a particular practice, it works! The evidence is not in the means; it is in the end – the person.

Obviously, no provider or patient wants to use medicine without evidence of efficacy. The question is what is acceptable evidence? The mantra of conventional medicine is “evidence-base practice.”  However, the new cancer strategy should also consider “practice-base evidence.” There are many practices that have been effective for thousands of years but are not practised today simply because medical science has “insufficient evidence” of their validity… Sometimes, perfect medicine can be the enemy of good medicine.