When Michael Lerner’s father developed a life-threatening cancer, Michael began to search the world for integrative cancer therapies. He traveled throughout Europe, the United States, Mexico, India, and Japan investigating alternative and integrative cancer therapy centers. Two centers made a deep impression on him—the Lukas Klinik in Alresheim, Switzerland, which is Anthroposophical, and the Bristol Cancer Help Centre in Bristol, England.

Michael gradually formed a resolve to create a program for people with cancer at Commonweal (which he cofounded). He had previously held retreats for healthy elderly people and for people with systemic lupus. His retreat work was also inspired by a deep engagement with Integral Yoga. The Cancer Help Program was born out of his exploration of integral cancer therapies and his immersion in Integral Yoga.

In 1986, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, Waz Thomas, and others joined Michael in founding the Cancer Help Program. Michael continues to direct the program, Rachel continues to serve as medical director, and Waz serves as intake coordinator.