Research & Innovation

Glossary of Terms

Clinical Trials

Abdomen – The area of the body that contains the pancreas, stomach, intestine, liver, gallbladder and other organs.

Ablation – The removal or destruction of a body part or tissue or its function. Ablation may be performed by surgery, hormones, drugs, radiofrequency, heat or other methods.

Abnormal – Not normal. An abnormal lesion or growth may be cancerous, pre-malignant (likely to become cancerous) or benign (non cancerous).

Absorption – The process of taking nutrients from the digestive system into the blood so they can be used in the body.

Acne – A disorder of the skin in which oil glands and hair glands become inflamed.

Activities of daily living (ADL) – The tasks of everyday life. Basic ADL’s are eating, dressing, getting into or out of a bed or chair, taking a bath or shower and using a toilet.

Acute – Symptoms or signs that begin and worsen quickly; not chronic.

Acute Toxicity – Temporary effects from a drug that may have some side effects of short duration, and may be sudden or severe.

Adenocarcinoma - Cancer that begins in cells that line certain internal organs.

Adenoid cystic carcinoma - A rare type of cancer that usually begins in the salivary glands.

Adenoma – A non-cancerous tumor.

Adenopathy – Large or swollen lymph nodes.

Adjunct agent - In cancer therapy, a drug or substance used in addition to the primary therapy.

Adjuvant chemotherapy - Chemotherapy given after the primary treatment to lower the risk that the cancer will return.

Adjuvant radiation therapy - The use of radiation after primary treatment in order to prevent a cancer from recurring.

Adrenal glands – A pair of small glands located on top of each kidney. They produce hormones, which help the body deal with stressful situations. For example, they produce adrenaline which influences heart rate and blood pressure.

Adverse effect – An unwanted side effect of treatment.

Alopecia – The lack or loss of hair from areas of the body where hair is usually found. Alopecia can be a side effect of some cancer treatments.

Amelanotic melanoma - A type of skin cancer in which the cells do not make melanin, a pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their color. Skin lesions are often irregular and may be pink, red, or have light brown, tan or gray at the edges.

Anal cancer - Cancer that forms in tissues of the anus. The anus is the opening of the rectum (last part of the large intestine) to the outside of the body.

Anaplastic - A term used to describe cancer cells that divide rapidly and have little or no resemblance to normal cells.

Androgen suppression – Treatment to suppress or block the production of male hormones achieved by surgical removal of the testicles, by taking female sex hormones, or by taking other drugs such as anti-androgens. Also called androgen ablation.

Androgens – A family of hormones that promote the development and maintenance of male sex characteristics.

Anemia – A condition in which the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry is reduced. It can be caused by too few or abnormal red blood cells, or by abnormal hemoblogin red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues.

Angiogenesis – Blood vessel formation. Tumor angiogenesis is the growth of blood vessels from surrounding tissue to a solid tumor. This is caused by the release of chemicals by the cells surrounding the tumor.

Angiogenesis inhibitor – A substance that may prevent the formation of blood vessels by preventing the growth of blood vessels from surrounding tissue to a solid tumor.

Anorexia - An abnormal loss of the appetite for food.

Antigen - A substance that is recognized by the body as being foreign and, as such, can trigger an immune response.

Anthracycline – A type of antibiotic that comes from the bacteria Streptococcus peucetius. Anthracyclines are used as treatments for cancer. Daunorubicin, doxorubicin, and epirubicin are anthracyclines.

Antibody – A type of protein made by certain white blood cells in response to an antigen. Each antibody can bind to only a specific antigen to help destroy the antigen. Antibody therapy for cancer uses antibodies to bind to cancer cells or stimulate the immune system to destroy the tumor cells

Anticancer antibiotics – A group of anticancer drugs that block cell growth by interfering with the normal structure of function of DNA, the genetic material in cells. Also called antitumor antibiotics or antineoplastic antibiotics.

Anticoagulant – A drug that helps prevent blood clots from forming. Also called a blood thinner.

Antiemetic - A drug that prevents or reduces nausea and vomiting.

Antiestrogen – A substance that blocks the activity of estrogens, the family of hormones that promote the development and maintenance of female sex characteristics.

Antihormone therapy – Treatment with drugs, surgery, or radiation in order to block the production or action of a hormone. Antihormone therapy may be used in cancer treatment because certain hormones are able to stimulate the growth of some types of tumors.

Antimetabolite – A drug that is very similar to natural chemicals in a normal biochemical reaction in cells but different enough to interfere with the normal division and functions of cells.

Antimicrotubule agent – A drug that inhibits cell growth by stopping cell division. Antimicrotubule agents are used as treatments for cancer. Also called antimitotic agents, mitotic inhibitors, and taxanes. Docetaxel and paclitaxel are antimicrotubule agents.

Antineoplastic – A substance that blocks the formation of neoplasms (growths that may become cancerous).

Antioxidant – A substance that prevents damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that often contain oxygen. They are produced when molecules are split to give products that have unpaired electrons. This process is called oxidation.

Archived Tumor Sample - A tumor sample that has been routinely preserved and stored.

Aromatase inhibitor – A drug that prevents the formation of estradiol, a female hormone, by interfering with an aromatase enzyme. Aromatase inhibitors are used to treat a type of hormone-dependent breast cancer.

Arsenic trioxide – A substance that induces programmed cell death (apoptosis) in certain cancer cells. It belongs to the family of drugs called antineoplastic.

Atrasentan – A substance that is being studied as a treatment for cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called endothelin-1 protein receptor antagonists.

Axilla – The underarm or armpit.

Axillary – Pertaining to the armpit area, including lymph nodes that are located there.

Axillary dissection – Surgery to remove lymph nodes found in the armpit region. Also called axillary lymph node dissection.

Axillary lymph nodes – Lymph nodes found in the armpit regions that drain lymph channels from the breast.

B lymphocyte - A white blood cell that comes from bone marrow. As part of the immune system, B lymphocytes make antibodies and help fight infections. Also called B cell.

B-cell lymphoma - A type of cancer that forms in B cells (a type of immune system cell). B-cell lymphomas usually occur in adults and may be either indolent (slow-growing) or aggressive (fast-growing).

Bacteria – A large group of single-cell micro-organisms of which can cause infections and disease in humans.

Baseline - An initial measurement that is taken at an early time point to represent a beginning condition, and is used for comparison over time to look for changes. For example, the size of a tumor will be measured before treatment (baseline) and then afterwards to see if the treatment had an effect.

Benign – Refers to a tumor that is not cancerous and the tumor does not usually invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body.

Bilateral - Affecting both the right and left sides of the body.

Biological therapy – Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight infections and other diseases, or to lessen side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. Also known as immunotherapy, biotherapy, or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.

Biomarker - A substance sometimes found in the blood, other body fluids or tissues. A high level of a biomarker may mean that a certain type of cancer is in the body. Examples of biomarkers include CA 125 (ovarian cancer), CA 15-3 (breast cancer), CEA (ovarian, lung, breast, pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract cancers) and PSA (prostate cancer). Also called tumor marker.

Biopsy – The removal of cells or tissues for examination under a microscope. When only a sample of tissue is removed, the procedure is called an incisional biopsy or core biopsy. When an entire lump or suspicious area is removed, the procedure is called an excisional biopsy. When a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle, the procedure is called a needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration.

Blood cell count - A test to check the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in a sample of blood. Also called complete blood count and CBC.

Bone marrow – The soft, sponge-like tissue in the center of most large bones. It produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Bone scan - A technique to create images of bones on a computer screen or on film. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into a blood vessel and travels through the bloodstream; it collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.

Booster - In medicine, refers to a vaccination given after a previous vaccination. A booster helps maintain or increase a protective immune response.

Bowel - The long, tube-shaped organ in the abdomen that completes the process of digestion. The bowel has two parts, the small bowel and the large bowel. Also called the intestine.

Brachytherapy - A procedure in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called internal radiation, implant radiation and interstitial radiation.

Brain tumor - The growth of abnormal cells in the tissues of the brain. Brain tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

BRCA1 - A gene on chromosome 17 that normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits an altered version of the BRCA1 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.

BRCA2 - A gene on chromosome 13 that normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits an altered version of the BRCA2 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.

Breakthrough pain - Intense increases in pain that occur with rapid onset even when pain-control medication is being used. Breakthrough pain can occur spontaneously or in relation to a specific activity.

Breast cancer - Cancer that forms in tissues of the breast, usually the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that make milk). It occurs in both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare.

Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System - A method used by radiologists to interpret and report in a standardized manner the results of mammography, ultrasound and MRI used in breast cancer screening and diagnosis. Also called BI-RADS.

Breast-conserving surgery - An operation to remove the breast cancer but not the breast itself. Types of breast-conserving surgery include lumpectomy (removal of the lump), quadrantectomy (removal of one quarter, or quadrant, of the breast) and segmental mastectomy (removal of the cancer as well as some of the breast tissue around the tumor and the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor). Also called breast-sparing surgery.

Bronchoscopy - A procedure that uses a bronchoscope to examine the inside of the trachea, bronchi (air passages that lead to the lungs) and lungs. A bronchoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease. The bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth. Bronchoscopy may be used to detect cancer or to perform some treatment procedures.

Buccal mucosa - The inner lining of the cheeks.

CA-125 test - A blood test that measures the level of CA-125, a substance found in blood, other body fluids and some tissues. Increased levels of CA-125 may be a sign of cancer

Cancer - A condition in which abnormal cells divide without control or fail to die as part of a normal cell's lifecycle. Cancer cells can also invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

Capillary leak syndrome - A condition in which fluid and proteins leak out of tiny blood vessels and flow into surrounding tissues, resulting in dangerously low blood pressure. Capillary leak syndrome may lead to multiple organ failure and shock.

Carcinogen - Any substance that causes cancer.

Carcinogenesis - The process by which normal cells are transformed into cancer cells.

Carcinoid - Is a slow-growing type of neuroendocrine tumor originating in the cells of the neuroendocrine system. In some cases, metastasis may occur.Carcinoma - Any of various cancerous tumors that are derived from epithelial tissue of the skin, blood vessels, or other organs and that tend to metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body. Carcinoma in situ -A cancer whose cells are localized in the epithelium (skin, blood vessels or organs) and show no tendency to invade or metastasize to other tissues.

Carcinoma of unknown primary - A case in which cancer cells are found in the body, but the place where the cells first started growing (the origin or primary site) cannot be determined. Also called cancer of unknown primary origin and CUP.

Carcinomatosis - A condition in which cancer is spread widely throughout the body, or, in some cases, to a relatively large region of the body. Also called carcinosis.

Castration - Removal or destruction of the testicles or ovaries using radiation, surgery or drugs. Medical castration refers to the use of drugs to suppress the function of the ovaries or testicles.

CEA - A substance that is sometimes found in an increased amount in the blood of people who have certain cancers, other diseases or who smoke. It is used as a tumor marker for colorectal cancer. Also called carcinoembryonic antigen.

Cervical cancer - Cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope).

Chemoprevention – The use of drugs, vitamins, or other agents to try to reduce the risk of, or delay the development or recurrence of cancer.

Chemoradiation - Treatment that combines chemotherapy with radiation therapy. Also called chemoradiotherapy.

Chemotherapy – Treatment with anticancer drugs.

Chronic - A disease or condition that persists or progresses over a long period of time.

Clear cell sarcoma of the kidney - A rare type of kidney cancer. Clear cell sarcoma can spread from the kidney to other organs, most commonly the bone, but also including the lungs, brain and soft tissues of the body.

Colon cancer - Cancer that forms in the tissues of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine). Most colon cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).

Colonoscopy - Examination of the inside of the colon using a colonoscope, inserted into the rectum. A colonoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

Colorectal cancer - Cancer that develops in the colon (the longest part of the large intestine) and/or the rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine before the anus).

Colony stimulating factors – Substances that stimulate the production of blood cells. Colony-stimulating factors include granulocyte colony-stimulating factors (also called G-CSF and filgrastim), granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factors (also called GM-CSF and sargramostim), and promegapoietin.

Continuous infusions – The administration of a fluid into a blood vessel, usually over a prolonged period of time.

Combination chemo – Treatment using more than one anticancer drug.

Concurrent therapy - A treatment that is given at the same time as another.

Congestive heart failure - Weakness of the heart muscle that leads to a buildup of fluid in body tissues.

Constipation - A condition in which stool becomes hard, dry and difficult to pass, and bowel movements don’t happen very often. Other symptoms may include painful bowel movements, and feeling bloated, uncomfortable and sluggish.

Contraindication - A symptom or medical condition that makes a particular treatment or procedure inadvisable because a person is likely to have a bad reaction. For example, having a bleeding disorder is a contraindication for taking aspirin because treatment with aspirin may cause excess bleeding.

Core Biopsy - A procedure which uses a needle to remove a small, intact sample of tissue in order to examine it under a microscope.

Corticosteroids – Hormones that are made by the outer part of the adrenal gland. Some types of corticosteroids are made in the laboratory. Corticosteroids have many uses in cancer treatment. Some are used to treat some types of lymphomas or types of leukemias. Some are used in the management of cancer treatment.

Cryosurgery – Treatment performed with an instrument that freezes and destroys abnormal tissues.

Cumulative dose - In medicine, the total amount of a drug or radiation given to a patient over time; for example, the total dose of radiation given in a series of radiation treatments

Curative Treatment – Treatment to destroy the cancer.

Cyst - A sac or capsule in the body. It may be filled with fluid or other material.

Cystectomy - Surgery to remove all or part of the bladder.

Cytopenia - A reduction in the number of blood cells

Cytotoxic - Chemotherapy anticancer drugs that kill cells, especially cancer cells

Dendritic cell vaccine - A vaccine made of white blood cells which are modified to recognized tumor cells.

Diagnosis - Identification of a conditionby its signs and symptoms and the results of laboratory tests or other examinations.

Diagnostic procedure - A method used to identify a disease.

Disease progression - Cancer that continues to grow or spread.

Disease-free survival - Length of time after treatment during which no cancer is found. Can be reported for an individual patient or for a study population.

Ductal cancer in situ – DCIS. Abnormal cells that involve only the lining of a breast duct. The cells have not spread outside the duct to other tissues in the breast. Also called intraductal carcinoma.

Double blinded – A clinical trial in which neither the medical staff nor the patient knows which of several possible therapies the patient is receiving.

Drug interaction - A change in the way a drug acts in the body when taken with certain other drugs, herbals, or foods, or when taken with certain medical conditions. Drug interactions may cause the drug to be more or less effective, or cause effects on the body that are not expected.

Drug resistance - The failure of cancer cells, viruses or bacteria to respond to a drug used to kill or weaken them. The cells, viruses or bacteria may be resistant to the drug at the beginning of treatment, or may become resistant after being exposed to the drug.

Drug tolerance - A condition that occurs when the body gets used to a medicine so that either more medicine is needed or different medicine is needed.

Dysplastic nevus - An abnormal mole; a mole whose appearance is different from that of a common mole. A dysplastic nevus is generally larger than an ordinary mole and has irregular and indistinct borders. Its color frequently is not uniform and ranges from pink to dark brown; it is usually flat, but parts may be raised above the skin surface.

Dyspnea - Difficult, painful breathing or shortness of breath.

Early-stage breast cancer - Breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast or the axillary (under the arm) and lymph nodes (under the arm). Edema - Swelling caused by excess fluid in body tissues.

Endocrinologist - A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating hormone disorders.

Endometrial cancer - Cancer that forms in the tissue lining the uterus (the small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis in which a baby grows). Most endometrial cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).

Endoscopy - Visual examination of a bodily orifice e.g mouth canal e.g rectum or organ using an endoscope (a long slender medical instrument).

Enzymes – Proteins that speed up chemical reactions in the body.

Erythema - Redness of the skin.

Esophageal cancer - Cancer that forms in tissues lining the esophagus (the muscular tube through which food passes from the throat to the stomach). Two types of esophageal cancer are squamous cell carcinoma (cancer that begins in flat cells lining the esophagus) and adenocarcinoma (cancer that begins in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).

Esophagitis - Inflammation of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach).

Estrogen – Hormones that promote the development and maintenance of female sex characteristics.

Estrogen receptor - (ER) A protein found inside the cells of the female reproductive tissue, some other types of tissue, and some cancer cells. The hormone estrogen will bind to the receptors inside the cells and may cause the cells to grow.

Estrogen receptor negative - (ER-). Describes cells that do not have a protein to which the hormone estrogen will bind. Cancer cells that are ER- do not need estrogen to grow, and usually do not stop growing when treated with hormones that block estrogen from binding.

Estrogen receptor positive - (ER+). Describes cells that have a protein to which the hormone estrogen will bind. Cancer cells that are ER+ need estrogen to grow, and may stop growing when treated with hormones that block estrogen from binding.

Extensive stage small cell lung cancer – Cancer that has spread outside the lung in which it originated to other tissues in the chest or to other parts of the body.

Excisional biopsy - A surgical procedure in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed for diagnosis. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.

Extrahepatic - Located or occurring outside the liver.

Febrile neutropenia - A condition marked by fever and decrease in the number of neutrophils in the blood. A neutrophil is a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection. Having too few neutrophils increases the risk of infection.

First-line therapy - The first type of therapy given for a condition or disease.

Follow-up - Monitoring a person's health over time after treatment. This includes keeping track of the health of people who participate in a clinical study or clinical trial for a period of time, both during the study and after the study ends

Gallbladder Cancer - Cancer that forms in tissues of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ below the liver that collects and stores bile (a fluid made by the liver to digest fat). Gallbladder cancer begins in the innermost layer of tissue and spreads through the outer layers as it grows.

Gamma Knife therapy - A treatment using gamma rays, a type of high-energy radiation that can be tightly focused on small tumors or other masses in the head or neck, so very little normal tissue receives radiation. The gamma rays are aimed at the tumor from many different angles at once, and deliver a large dose of radiation exactly to the tumor in one treatment session. This procedure is a type of stereotactic radiosurgery (radiation focused beams targeting a well-defined tumor). Gamma Knife therapy is not a knife and is not surgery.

Gastric cancer - Cancer that forms in tissues lining the stomach. Also called stomach cancer.

Gastritis - Inflammation of the lining of the stomach.

Gastroenterologist - A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the digestive system

Gastrointestinal stromal tumor – GIST. A type of tumor that usually begins in cells in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract. It can be benign or malignant.

Glioblastoma multiforme. (GBM) - A fast-growing type of central nervous system tumor that forms from glial (supportive) tissue of the brain and spinal cord and has cells that look very different from normal cells. GBM usually occurs in adults and affects the brain more often than the spinal cord. Also called grade IV astrocytoma and glioblastoma.

Gene - The functional and physical units of inheritance that are passed from parents to their offspring.

Gene Expression - the process by which a unit of heredity is turned on or expressed.

Genetic analysis - The study of a sample of DNA to look for mutations (changes) that may increase risk of disease or affect the way a person responds to treatment.

Genetic testing - Analyzing DNA to look for a genetic alteration that may indicate an increased risk for developing a specific disease or disorder.

Gynecologic oncologist - A doctor who specializes in treating cancers of the female reproductive organs.

Hand-foot syndrome - A condition marked by pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, or redness of the hands or feet. It sometimes occurs as a side effect of certain anticancer drugs. Also called palmar-plantar erythodysthesia.

Head and neck cancer - Cancer that arises in the head or neck region (in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lip, mouth, salivary glands, throat, or larynx [voice box]).

Hematologist - A doctor who specializes in treating blood disorders.

Hematoma - A pool of clotted or partially clotted blood in an organ, tissue, or body space, usually caused by a broken blood vessel.

Hematuria - Blood in the urine.

Hemoglobin - The substance inside red blood cells that binds to oxygen and carries it from the lungs to the tissues.

Herbal medicine - A type of medicine that uses roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds of plants to improve health, prevent disease and treat illness.

HER 2 – A protein which is found on the border of a cell, which acts as a receptor, can send a signal to the cell to grow. It is present in some types of normal cells; however, it is also found on some types of cancer cells, like breast cancer cells. For example, breast cancer cells that have too many copies of this receptor are called HER-2 positive. Her2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, also called c-erbB-2, or Her2/neu.

High-dose radiation - An amount of radiation that is greater than that given in typical radiation therapy. HDR is precisely directed at the tumor to avoid damaging healthy tissue, and may kill more cancer cells in fewer treatments. Also called HDR.

High-risk cancer - Cancer that is likely to recur (come back), or spread

Hodgkin's lymphoma - A cancer of the immune system that is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. Symptoms include the painless enlargement of lymph nodes, spleen or other immune tissue. Other symptoms include fever, weight loss, fatigue or night sweats. Also called Hodgkin's disease.

Hormone therapy – Treatment with hormones to replace or block other hormones. For certain conditions (such as diabetes or menopause), hormones are given to adjust low hormone levels. To slow or stop the growth of certain cancers (such as prostate and breast cancer), hormones may be given to block the body's natural hormones. Also called hormonal therapy, hormone treatment, or endocrine therapy.

Hormones – Chemical messengers made by the body; many are made by glands. For example, the thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones.

Hyperglycemia - Abnormally high blood sugar.

Hyperparathyroidism - A condition in which the parathyroid gland (one of four pea-sized organs found on the thyroid) makes too much parathyroid hormone. This causes a loss of calcium from the bones and an increased level of calcium in the blood. Symptoms include bone pain and kidney problems.

Hyperplasia - An abnormal increase in the number of cells in an organ or tissue.

Hypersensitivity - An exaggerated response by the immune system to a drug or other substance.

Hypertension - A blood pressure of 140/90 or higher. Hypertension usually has no symptoms. It can harm the arteries and cause an increase in the risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and blindness. Also called high blood pressure.

Hyperthermia - Abnormally high body temperature. This may be caused as part of treatment, by an infection or by exposure to heat.

Hypotension - Abnormally low blood pressure.

Hypoxic - Having too little oxygen.

Hypothyroidism - Too little thyroid hormone. Symptoms include weight gain, constipation, dry skin and sensitivity to the cold. Also called underactive thyroid

Hysterectomy - Surgery to remove the uterus and, sometimes, the cervix. When the uterus and part or the entire cervix is removed, it is called a total hysterectomy. When only the uterus is removed, it is called a partial hysterectomy.

Idiopathic - Describes a disease of unknown cause

Immune response – The activity of the immune system against Substances the body perceives as foreign (antigens).

Immune system - The complex group of organs and cells that defends the body against infections and other diseases

Immunocompromised - Having a weakened immune system caused by certain diseases or treatments

Immuno-suppresive Toxicity – When the immune system is weakened due to a drug, making the patient more prone to infections.

Immunotherapy - Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight cancer, infections, and other diseases. Also used to lessen certain side effects that may be caused by cancer treatment. Also called biological therapy, biotherapy, biological response modifier therapy and BRM therapy.

IMRT - Intensity-modulated radiation therapy. A type of 3-dimensional radiation therapy that uses computer-generated images to show the size and shape of the tumor. Thin beams of radiation of different intensities are aimed at the tumor from many angles. This type of radiation therapy reduces the damage to healthy tissue near the tumor. Also called intensity-modulated radiation therapy.

Incisional biopsy - A surgical procedure in which a portion of a lump or suspicious area is removed for diagnosis. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.

Induction therapy - Treatment designed to be used as a first step toward shrinking the cancer and in evaluating response to drugs and other agents. Induction therapy is followed by additional therapy to eliminate whatever cancer remains.

Infusions – A method of putting fluids, including drugs, into the bloodstream. Also called intravenous infusion.

In Situ In its original place - Carcinoma in situ refers to cancer cells which are found only in the place where they started growing or originated; they have not spread.

Intravenous - Within a blood vessel. Also called IV.

Intratumoral - Within a tumor.

Investigational drug - A substance that has been tested in a laboratory and has gotten approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be tested in people. A drug may be approved by the FDA for use in one disease or condition but be considered investigational in other diseases or conditions. Also called an experimental drug

Investigator - A researcher in a clinical trial or clinical study.

IORT - Intraoperative radiation therapy. Radiation treatment aimed directly at a tumor during surgery.

Irradiation – Also called Radiation Therapy. The use of high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, and other sources of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy) or from materials called radioisotopes. Irreversible toxicity - Side effects that are caused by toxic substances or something harmful to the body and do not go away.

Jaundice - A condition in which the skin and the whites of the eyes become yellow, urine darkens and the color of stool becomes lighter than normal. Jaundice occurs when the liver is not working properly or when a bile duct is blocked.

Karnofsky Performance Status - A standard way of measuring the ability of cancer patients to perform ordinary tasks on a scale from 0 to 100. A higher score means the patient is better able to carry out daily activities. KPS may be used to determine a patient's disease outcome to measure changes in a patient’s ability to function, or to decide if a patient could be included in a clinical trial. Also called KPS

Kidney cancer - Cancer that forms in tissues of the kidneys. Kidney cancer includes renal cell carcinoma (cancer that forms in the lining of very small tubes in the kidney that filter the blood and remove waste products) and renal pelvis carcinoma (cancer that forms in the center of the kidney where urine collects). It also includes Wilms’ tumor, which is a type of kidney cancer that usually develops in children under the age of 5.

Kidney failure - A condition in which the kidneys stop working and are not able to remove waste and extra water from the blood or keep body chemicals in balance. Acute or severe kidney failure happens suddenly (for example, after an injury) and may be treated and cured. Chronic kidney failure develops over many years, may be caused by conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, and cannot be cured.

(LDH) Lactate dehydrogenase - One of a group of enzymes found in the blood and other body tissues, involved in energy production in cells. An increased amount in the blood may be a sign of tissue damage and some types of cancer or other diseases. Also called lactic acid dehydrogenase.

Limited stage small-cell lung cancer – Cancer found in one lung and in nearby lymph nodes.

Liver function test - A blood test to measure the blood levels of certain substances released by the liver. A high or low level of certain substances can be a sign of liver disease.

Local cancer - An invasive malignant cancer confined entirely to the organ where the cancer began.

Locally advanced cancer - Cancer that has spread from where it started to nearby tissue or lymph nodes

Local anesthesia - Drugs that cause a temporary loss of feeling in one part of the body. The patient remains awake but has no feeling in the part of the body treated with the anesthetic

Lumpectomy – Surgery to remove the tumor and a small amount of normal tissue around it.

Lymph nodes – Tiny, bean shaped organs that help fight infection, which are part of the lymphatic system.

Lymphatic system – A network of small vessels, nodes, tissues and organs that carries clear liquid called lymph. Lymph contains white blood cells which can destroy pathogens. Cancer can spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system.

Lytic - lesion Destruction of an area of bone due to a disease process, such as cancer.

Macrophage - A type of white blood cell that surrounds and kills small bacteria removes dead cells and stimulates the action of other immune system cells.

Malignant – A tumor that is cancerous and may invade nearby healthy tissue or spread to other parts of the body.

Mammography – The use of x-rays to create a picture of the breast.

Mastectomy – Surgery to remove the breast (or as much of the breast tissue as possible).

Melanoma – A form of skin cancer that arises in melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment. Melanoma usually begins in a mole.

Metastatic – The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another.

Molecularly targeted therapy - In cancer treatment, substances that kill cancer cells by targeting key molecules involved in cancer cell growth.

Monoclonal antibodies – Laboratory-produced substances that can locate and bind to cancer cells wherever they are in the body. Many monoclonal antibodies are used in cancer detection or therapy; each one recognizes a different protein on certain cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies can be used alone, or they can be used to deliver drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to a tumor.

Mucosa - The moist, inner lining of some organs and body cavities (such as the nose, mouth, lungs, and stomach). Glands in the mucosa make mucus (a thick, slippery fluid). Also called mucous membrane

Mucositis - A complication of some cancer therapies in which the lining of the digestive system becomes inflamed. Often seen as sores in the mouth.

Multidisciplinary - In medicine, a term used to describe a treatment planning approach or team that includes a number of doctors and other health care professionals who are experts in different specialties (disciplines). In cancer treatment, the primary disciplines are medical oncology (treatment with drugs), surgical oncology (treatment with surgery), and radiation oncology (treatment with radiation).

Mutation - Any change in the DNA of a cell. Mutations may be caused by mistakes during cell division, or they may be caused by exposure to DNA-damaging agents in the environment. Mutations can be harmful, beneficial, or have no effect. If they occur in cells that make eggs or sperm, they can be inherited; if mutations occur in other types of cells, they are not inherited. Certain mutations may lead to cancer or other diseases.

Myeloma - Cancer that arises in plasma cells, a type of white blood cell.

Myelosuppression - A condition in which bone marrow is actively decreased, resulting in fewer red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Myelosuppression is a side effect of some cancer treatments. When myelosuppression is severe, it is called myeloablation.

Necrosis - Refers to the death of living tissues.

Needle biopsy -The removal of tissue or fluid with a needle for examination under a microscope. Also called fine-needle aspiration.

Neoplasm - An abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Neoplasms may be benign (not cancerous), or malignant (cancerous). Also called tumor.

Nephrectomy - Surgery to remove a kidney or part of a kidney. In a partial nephrectomy, part of one kidney or a tumor is removed, but not an entire kidney. In a simple nephrectomy, one kidney is removed. In a radical nephrectomy, an entire kidney, nearby adrenal gland and lymph nodes, and other surrounding tissue are removed. In a bilateral nephrectomy, both kidneys are removed.

Neurological exam - A series of questions and tests to check brain, spinal cord, and nerve function. The exam checks a person’s mental status, coordination, ability to walk, and how well the muscles, sensory systems and deep tendon reflexes work.

Neuropathy - A problem in peripheral nerve function (any part of the nervous system except the brain and spinal cord) that causes pain, numbness, tingling, swelling and muscle weakness in various parts of the body. Neuropathy may be caused by physical injury, infection, toxic substances, disease (e.g., cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, or malnutrition) or drugs such as anticancer drugs. Also called peripheral neuropathy.

Neutropenia – A reduced level of a certain type of white cell in the blood. If a fever occurs then it is febrile neutropenia.

Node-negative - Cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Node-positive - Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes.

Nonmalignant - Not cancerous.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) - Any large group of cancers of the immune system. NHLs can occur at any age and are often marked by enlarged lymph nodes, fever, and weight loss. There are many different types of NHL, which can be divided into aggressive (fast-growing) and indolent (slow-growing) types and can be classified as either B-cell or T-cell NHL. B-cell NHLs include Burkitt's lymphoma, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, immunoblastic large cell lymphoma, precursor B-lymphoblastic lymphoma and mantle cell lymphoma

Non-small cell lung cancer – A group of lung cancers that includes squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma (abnormal cells arising from the skins upper layer), and large cell carcinoma (fast-growing cancer. It is the most common kind of lung cancer.

Objective response - A measurable response.

Observation – Closely monitoring a patient's condition but withholding treatment until symptoms appear or change. Also called watchful waiting.

Ocular melanoma - A rare cancer of melanocytes (cells that produce the pigment melanin) found in the eye. Also called intraocular melanoma.

Oncologist - A doctor who specializes in treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment. For example, a radiation oncologist specializes in treating cancer with radiation.

Oncology - The study of cancer.

Palliative Treatment – Treatment which relieves the symptoms and pain, but does not cure.

Pancreatic cancer – A disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the tissues of the pancreas. Also called exocrine cancer.

Pathologist - Physician who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

Pathological staging - A method used to determine the stage of cancer. Tissue samples are removed during surgery or a biopsy. The stage is determined based on how the cells in the samples look under a microscope.

Pelvis – The area below the abdomen located between the hip bones.

Peripheral blood – Blood circulating throughout the body.

Pheresis - A procedure in which blood is collected, part of the blood such as platelets or white blood cells is taken out, and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor. Also called apheresis.

Photon-beam radiation - A type of radiation therapy that reaches deep tumors with high-energy X-rays made by a machine called a linear accelerator.

Phototoxicity - A condition in which the skin or eyes become very sensitive to sunlight or other forms of light. It can be caused by taking certain drugs, or rubbing certain essential oils (scented liquid taken from plants) or other topical agents into the skin. Phototoxicity causes sunburn, blisters and other skin problems.

Placebo – An inactive substance that looks the same as, and is administered in the same way as, a drug in a clinical trial.

Polyp - An abnormal growth of tissue. Polyps are a risk factor for colon cancer.

Post menopausal – Refers to the time after menopause. Menopause is the time in a woman's life when menstrual periods stop permanently; also called "change of life."

Postoperative - After surgery.

Precancerous - A term used to describe a condition that may (or is likely to) become cancer. Also called premalignant

Primary Cancer – Describes the original cancer.

Prognosis – The chance of recovery or the prediction of the outcome of a disease.

Prophylaxis - An attempt to prevent disease.

Proton beam radiation therapy - A type of radiation therapy that uses protons generated by a special machine. A proton is a type of high-energy radiation that is different from an X-ray.

Pruritus Itching - Severe itching may be a side effect of some cancer treatments and a symptom of some types of cancers.

Quality of Life – The overall enjoyment of life. Many clinical trials assess the effects of cancer and its treatment on the quality of life. These studies measure aspects of an individual's sense of well-being and ability to carry out various tasks.

Radiation dermatitis - A skin condition that is a common side effect of radiation therapy. The affected skin becomes painful, red, itchy and blistered.

Radiation surgery - A radiation therapy procedure that uses special equipment to position the patient and precisely deliver a large radiation dose to a tumor and not to normal tissue. This procedure does not use surgery. It is used to treat brain tumors and other brain disorders. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer, such as lung cancer. Also called radiosurgery, stereotactic external-beam radiation, stereotactic radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotaxic radiosurgery.

Radioisotopes - produce radiation and can be placed in or near the tumor or in the area near cancer cells. This type of radiation treatment is called internal radiation therapy, implant radiation, interstitial radiation or brachytherapy.

Recurrence – The return of cancer, at the same site as the original (primary) tumor or in another location, after the tumor had been undetectable for a period of time.

Relapse – The disease has reoccurred after a period of remission.

Red blood cells – RBC. A cell that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Also called an erythrocyte.

Regimen – A treatment plan that specifies the dosage, the schedule, and the duration of treatment.

Remission – The symptoms of cancer are no longer present and there is no longer any evidence of disease.

Resection - Surgery to remove a cancer and some surrounding tissue.

Sarcoma - A malignant tumor growing from connective tissues, such as cartilage, fat, muscle, or bone.

Secondary cancer - A term that is used to describe either a new primary cancer or cancer that has spread from the place in which it started to other parts of the body

Sentinel lymph node – The first lymph node to which cancer is likely to spread from the primary tumor. Cancer cells may appear first in the sentinel node before spreading to other lymph nodes.

Sepsis - The presence of bacteria or their toxins in the blood or tissues.

Screening - Checking for disease when there are no symptoms.

Side effect - A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some common side effects of cancer treatment are fatigue, pain, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores.

Solid tumor - An abnormal mass of tissue that usually does not contain cysts or liquid areas. Solid tumors may be benign (not cancerous), or malignant (cancerous). Different types of solid tumors are named for the type of cells that form them. Examples of solid tumors are sarcomas (kind of cancer that starts in connective tissue that connects and supports the body), carcinomas (cancer starts in the skin or tissue) and lymphomas(cancer of lymph nodes).
Leukemias (cancers of the blood) generally do not form solid tumors.

Stable disease - Cancer that is neither decreasing nor increasing in extent or severity.

Stages of Cancer – the extent of a cancer and whether the disease has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.

Standard of care - In medicine, treatment that experts agree is appropriate, accepted and widely used. Health care providers are obligated to provide patients with the standard of care. Also called standard therapy or best practice.

Stereotactic biopsy - A biopsy procedure that uses a computer and a 3-dimensional scanning device to find a tumor site and guide the removal of tissue for examination under a microscope.

Stereotactic radiation therapy - A radiation therapy procedure that uses special equipment to position the patient and precisely deliver a large radiation dose to a tumor and not to normal tissue. This procedure does not use surgery. It is used to treat brain tumors and other brain disorders. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer, such as lung cancer. Also called radiation surgery, radiosurgery, stereotactic external-beam radiation, stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotaxic radiosurgery.

Supportive care - Care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. The goal of supportive care is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of the disease, side effects caused by treatment of the disease, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to the disease or its treatment. Also called palliative care, comfort care, and symptom management.

Symptomatic - Having to do with symptoms, which are signs of a condition or disease.

Systemic disease - Disease that affects the whole body.

Systemic radiation therapy - uses a radioactive substance, such as radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that circulates throughout the body. Irradiation is also called radiation therapy, radiotherapy and X-ray therapy

Systemic therapy - Treatment using substances that travel through the bloodstream, reaching and affecting cells all over the body.

Targeted therapy – a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances, such as monoclonal antibodies, to attack specific cancer cells with less harm to normal ones.

Testicles – The two egg-shaped glands found inside the scrotum. They produce sperm and male hormones. Also called testes.

Testosterone - A hormone that promotes the development and maintenance of male sex characteristics.

TNM Classification of Malignant Tumors (TNM) - Describes the extent of cancer in a patient´s body. TNM describes Tumor/Nodes/Metastasis. T describes the size of the tumor and whether it has invaded nearby tissue, N describes the number of regional lymph nodes that are involved, and M describes the presence of other metastases.

Therapeutic - Having to do with treating disease and helping healing take place.

Toxicity - The extent to which something is poisonous or harmful.

Toxicity Grading – the Toxicity Grading Scale standardizes the evaluation of side effects of patients with cancer treatments

Thrombosis - The formation or presence of a blood clot inside a blood vessel.

Thyroid - A gland located beneath the voice box (larynx) that produces thyroid hormone. The thyroid helps regulate growth and metabolism.

Thyroiditis - Inflammation of the thyroid gland. Thyroiditis may be an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland over time, causing hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone). A temporary form of thyroiditis may also occur after the birth of a baby, or when viral or bacterial infections spread to the thyroid.

Transdermal - Absorbed through the unbroken skin.

Tumor – A mass formed from cell which have changed and multiplied uncontrollably. A tumor can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Tumor burden - Refers to the number of cancer cells, the size of a tumor, or the amount of cancer in the body. Also called tumor load.

Tumor debulking - Surgically removing as much of the tumor as possible.

Tumor Markers – A substance in the body that may indicate the presence of cancer. Tumor makers may aid in the diagnosis or selection of treatment or how treatment is progressing.

Unresectable – Unable to be removed with surgery.

Ulceration - The formation of a break on the skin or on the surface of an organ. An ulcer forms when the surface cells die and are cast off. Ulcers may be associated with cancer and other diseases.

Ulcerative colitis - Chronic inflammation of the colon that produces ulcers in its lining. This condition is marked by abdominal pain, cramps, and loose discharges of pus, blood, and mucus from the bowel.

Ultrasound-guided biopsy - A biopsy procedure that uses an ultrasound imaging device to find an abnormal area of tissue and guide its removal for examination under a microscope.

Vaccines – A substance or group of substances meant to cause the immune system to respond to a tumor or to microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses. A vaccine can help the body recognize and destroy cancer cells or microorganisms.

Viral therapy - Treatment using a virus that has been changed in the laboratory to find and destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells. It is a type of targeted therapy. Also called virotherapy and oncolytic virotherapy.

Viral vector - A type of virus used in cancer therapy. The virus is changed in the laboratory and cannot cause disease. Viral vectors produce tumor antigens (proteins found on a tumor cell) and can help the immune system recognize the tumor in the body. Viral vectors may also be used to carry genes that can change cancer cells back to normal cells.

Visceral - Having to do with the viscera, which are the soft internal organs of the body, including the lungs, the heart, and the organs of the digestive, excretory, reproductive and circulatory systems

Vocal cord - One of two small bands of muscle within the larynx that vibrates to produce the voice.

Voice box - The area of the throat containing the vocal cords and used for breathing, swallowing, and talking. Also called larynx

Watchful waiting - Closely monitoring a patient's condition but withholding treatment until symptoms appear or change. Also called observation.

White blood cells – WBC. Refers to a blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin (red blood cells that contain the substance which they use to carry oxygen in the blood). White blood cells include different types of white blood cell such as lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, macrophages, and mast cells. These cells are made by bone marrow and help the body fight infection and other diseases.

Wide local excision - Surgery to cut out the cancer and some healthy tissue around it.

WHO (World Health Organization) - A system that ranks or grades how harmful something is; the grades range toxicity grading guidelines that range from 0 (none) to grade 4 (life threatening).

X-rays – A type of high-energy radiation. In low doses, X-rays are used to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body. In high doses, X-rays are used to treat cancer.