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The goal of all medical activity is to preserve health in fit people, and to restore the sick into a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. In an effort to determine whether we are achieving this last goal in oncology, herein we review the biological and clinical framework that has led to the foundations of the current anticancer treatment paradigm. Currently, cancer therapy is still based on the ancient axiom that states that the complete eradication of the tumor burden is the only way to achieve a cure. This strategy has led to a substantial improvement in survival rates as cancer mortality rates have dropped in an unprecedented way. Despite this progress, more than 9 million people still die from cancer every year, indicating that the current treatment strategy is not leading to a cancer cure, but to a cancer remission, that is “the temporary absence of manifestations of a particular disease”; after months or years of remission, in most patients, cancer will inevitably recur. Our critical analysis indicates that it is time to discuss about the new key challenges and future directions in clinical oncology. We need to generate novel treatment strategies more suited to the current clinical reality.
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