25 years ago, then President Nixon "declared" War on Cancer. In this personal commentary, the war is reviewed. There have been obvious triumphs, for instance in cure of acute lymphocytic leukaemia and other childhood cancers, Hodgkin's disease, and testicular cancer. However, substantial advances in molecular oncology have yet to impinge on mortality statistics. Too many adults still die from common epithelial cancers. Failure to appreciate that local invasion and distant metastasis rather then cell proliferation itself are lethal, obsession with cure of advanced disease rather than prevention of early disease, and neglect of the need to arrest preneoplastic lesions may all have served to make victory elusive.