Past, Present and Future of Cancer by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and T. M. Campbell, MD


The War on Cancer was launched almost 45 years ago, with great hope that a so-called cure might be found. Unfortunately, there has been little, if any, progress. Reducing tobacco use is a partial but significant success. Early screening may seem like a sensible idea but it rests on the assumption that cancer is an inevitable disease that cannot be reversed, and that cancer cells are killed, with our only hope of catching it early.

If we accept these ideas of inevitability and randomness—and most people seem to think this way—we need to find chemicals that kill cancer cells. But killing cancer cells (i.e., cytotoxic chemotherapy)—hopefully, selectively—is not working. A relatively recent report published in the proceedings of the Mayo Clinic1 and online <> concluded that the estimated cost of developing each new cancer drug is a staggering $1.2-1.3 billion and the average time to bring it to market is eight years! So what are we getting for this effort?


A 2004 analysis2 showed that 5-year survival for 22 different types of cancer, which were treated with these ‘cytotoxic chemotherapy’ drugs, is increased by only 2.1%. This is mostly attributed to a few cancer types (testis, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cervix and ovary) which themselves showed only a 14% average increase in 5-year survival rates. For the top five cancer types (colorectal, breast, prostate, melanoma, lung), chemotherapy increased 5-year survival by only 1.6%. If this is not dire enough, the authors of this report also said that “these estimates of benefit should be regarded as the upper limit of effectiveness”.

How can we spend $1.2-1.3 billion to develop a chemotherapy drug that makes it to the market, then see only a 2.1% increase in 5-year survival? Also, patients who believe they are receiving benefit (i.e., they feel better), their “survival… is rarely beyond 12 months.” On top of this, unwanted side effects of chemotherapy are often very difficult, to say nothing of the evidence that some chemotherapy agents may actually cause secondary cancers.

Is it not time to admit that the 45-year old War on Cancer needs some new thinking? For our society, this ‘War’ is a failed business plan—except for those who are engaged in developing and using these chemicals.


We propose that there is a more comprehensive way to think about cancer treatment, at least for a substantial number of cancer patients. The evidence comes from my experimental research program on food and health that began in 1956, later focusing on nutrition and cancer with generous taxpayer funding in 1965. We demonstrated that experimental cancer in laboratory animals could be turned on and off simply by nutritional means, both early in the cancer development process and later in a lifetime study. That is, cancer development and its reversal was controlled by nutrition, showing that cancer is neither inevitable nor random and it’s possible that it is never too late to reverse the disease.

We undertook a large amount of research during the next 2-3 decades and showed that nutrition is the main determinant of whether or not cancer develops. It is the same nutrition protocol now known to virtually eliminate heart disease, both its prevention and its reversal during relatively advanced stages. 3,4 This protocol is the whole food, plant-based diet which is low in protein, low in fat and very high in complex carbohydrates and antioxidants and which is tasty when prepared in the right manner.

The findings from our work were published in more than 350 professional publications, mostly in the very best scientific journals. Eventually, this story was told in the best selling book The China Study (more than one million copies sold, translated into at least 30 foreign languages)5 and in Whole6. More recently, this information was published in a way to facilitate its use by the public, with a ‘how-to’ book, The Campbell Plan,7 and with two cookbooks, The China Study Cookbook8 and Plant Pure Nation Cookbook.9 This story also has been featured in two documentary movies, Forks Over Knives (estimated viewers of about 20 million)10 and the recently released PlantPure Nation.11

Our proposal will determine whether the same dietary lifestyle that successfully reverses heart disease, does the same with cancer patients. We are confident that we will see some very positive results. This study will be undertaken at a highly qualified academic medical center (25,000 employees) at The University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, NY, with appropriate institutional administrative procedures and oversight. It will be directed by Tom Campbell, MD, who coauthored The China Study and who now is Clinical Director of a new Nutrition in Medicine Program at the U of R. His wife, Erin Campbell, MD, assistant professor at the U of R and Program Director of its Nutrition in Medicine Program, will be the associate director of this project.

An advisory committee, chaired by T Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, will be composed of an additional three qualified medical professionals plus any principal investigators at institutions who may elect to participate in this project. We anticipate recruiting cancer patients at other institutions who will be following the same protocol.

This research program will partner with the non-profit organization, the T Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies which offers a highly successful online program, Plant Based Nutrition, in partnership with the Cornell University online program, eCornell, Inc. (ranked first among 200+ courses at eCornell).

Although the above cited research was undertaken in my (TCC) laboratory and was handsomely funded by public funding provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), we are in this case seeking private funding which administratively will be less cumbersome. This project is estimated to be of five years duration but, assuming success, we could easily imagine it eventually becoming the first phase of a longer standing project.

The findings from this study will be published in the very best professional medical journals.9 It is well past time that we begin this investigation of this protocol as soon as funding is secured and to do it professionally. The funding sought for this research ($6 million) is miniscule, compared to the $1.2-1.3 billion expended on the development of a single chemotherapy drug with minimal if any future. Moreover, the health return for this dietary protocol is far greater.

For a complete proposal, please contact Dr. Campbell at

1. Siddiqui, M. & Rajkumar, S. V. The high cost of cancer drugs and what we can do about it. Mayo Clinic proceedings 87, 935-943, doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2012.07.007 (2012).
2. Morgan, G., Ward, R. & Barton, M. The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies. Clin. Oncol. (R. Coll. Radiol.) 16, 549-560 (2004).
3. Ornish, D. et al. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? Lancet 336, 129-133 (1990).
4. Esselstyn, C. B., Jr. Updating a 12-year experience with arrest and reversal therapy for coronary heart disease (an overdue requiem for palliative cardiology). Am. J. Cardiol. 84, 339-341 (1999).
5. Campbell, T. C. & Campbell, T. M., II. The China Study, Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health. (BenBella Books, Inc., 2005).
6. Campbell, T. C. Whole. Rethinking the science of nutrition (with H. Jacobson). (BenBella Books, 2013).
7. Campbell, T. M. I. The Campbell Plan. (Rodale Press, Inc., 2015).
8. Campbell, L. The China Study Cookbook. (BenBella Books, 2013).
9. Campbell, K. The PlantPure Nation Cookbook. (BenBella Books, 2015).
10. Fulkerson, L. 92 min (Monica Beach Productions, Santa Monica, CA, 2011).
11. Campbell, T. N. 1:33 hr (Los Angeles CA, 2015).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *