The war on cancer that began some 40 years ago with the discovery of oncogenes is starting to be won. We feel fortunate to have contributed to several advances. Here we recall how molecular biology became our scientific passion, how we met from opposite ends of the earth, and how our 50-year odyssey has taken us from gene expression through immunogenetics to exploring the molecular basis of cancer and cell death. We describe the scientific discoveries that motivated us and remarkable scientists who influenced us. We sketch our studies that clarified the role of chromosome translocations in cancer and established the value of genetically engineered mouse models of tumorigenesis. Finally, we outline how our findings with many talented close colleagues on cell death regulation stimulated the development of remarkable new anticancer agents called BH3 mimetics, which are encouraging hope that many more malignancies will become controllable and even curable.