The past decade has seen many advances in knowledge about gastric cancer. Notably, tumour biology and lymphatic spread are now better understood, and treatment by surgical and medical oncologists has become more standardised. Since refrigerators have replaced other methods of food conservation, Helicobacter pylori has become a factor in the cause of gastric cancer. Cancers that arise at the oesophagogastric junction might be further examples of wealth-associated disease. To tailor treatment better, the western hemisphere needs to borrow from the East by establishing screening programmes for early diagnosis, through careful surgical resection, and through detailed analysis of tumour spread. In Europe and the USA, most patients reach treatment with cancers already at an advanced stage. For these patients, three important randomised trials are underway that evaluate combined therapy. Cytostatic drugs, especially angiogenesis inhibitors have proved disappointing; however, basic research efforts to detect familial gastric cancers and to assess minimally residual disease look more hopeful.