Glossary

Definitions of cancer terms

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

Acute promyelocytic leukemia

An aggressive (fast-growing) type of acute myeloid leukemia in which there are too many immature blood-forming cells in the blood and bone marrow. It is usually marked by an exchange of parts of chromosomes 15 and 17. Also called APL and promyelocytic leukemia.

Adenocarcinoma

Cancer that begins in glandular (secretory) cells. Glandular cells are found in tissue that lines certain internal organs and makes and releases substances in the body, such as mucus, digestive juices, or other fluids. Most cancers of the breast, pancreas, lung, prostate, and colon are adenocarcinomas.

Anaplastic large cell lymphoma

An aggressive (fast-growing) type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is usually of the T-cell type. The cancer cells express a marker called CD30 or Ki-1 on the surface, and may appear in the lymph nodes, skin, bones, soft tissues, lungs, or liver. Also called ALCL.

B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia

An aggressive (fast-growing) type of leukemia (blood cancer) in which too many B-cell lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) are found in the bone marrow and blood. It is the most common type of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Also called B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia and precursor B-lymphoblastic leukemia.

BCR-ABL fusion gene

A gene formed when pieces of chromosomes 9 and 22 break off and trade places. The ABL gene from chromosome 9 joins to the BCR gene on chromosome 22, to form the BCR-ABL fusion gene. The changed chromosome 22 with the fusion gene on it is called the Philadelphia chromosome. The BCR-ABL fusion gene is found in most patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), and in some patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) or acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). (Ref: http://www.cancer.gov/dictionary?expand=A)

Breast cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the breast. The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, which begins in the lining of the milk ducts (thin tubes that carry milk from the lobules of the breast to the nipple). Another type of breast cancer is lobular carcinoma, which begins in the lobules (milk glands) of the breast.

Burkitt lymphoma

An aggressive (fast-growing) type of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma that occurs most often in children and young adults. The disease may affect the jaw, central nervous system, bowel, kidneys, ovaries, or other organs. There are three main types of Burkitt lymphoma (sporadic, endemic, and immunodeficiency related). Sporadic Burkitt lymphoma occurs throughout the world, and endemic Burkitt lymphoma occurs in Africa. Immunodeficiency-related Burkitt lymphoma is most often seen in AIDS patients.

Cancer

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell growth. Cancer begins when a single cell mutates, resulting in a breakdown of the normal regulatory controls that keep cell division in check. These mutations can be inherited, caused by errors in DNA replication, or result from exposure to harmful chemicals. A cancerous tumor can spread to other parts of the body and, if left untreated, be fatal. (Ref: Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms from the National Human Genome Research Institute)

Chromosomal translocation

A chromosome alteration in which a whole chromosome or segment of a chromosome becomes attached to or interchanged with another whole chromosome or segment, the resulting hybrid segregating together at meiosis; balanced translocations (in which there is no net loss or gain of chromosome material) are usually not associated with phenotypic abnormalities, although gene disruptions at the breakpoints of the translocation can, in some cases, cause adverse effects, including some known genetic disorders; unbalanced translocations (in which there is loss or gain of chromosome material) nearly always yield an abnormal phenotype.( Ref: GeneReviews from the University of Washington and the National Center for Biotechnology Information)

Chronic myeloproliferative neoplasm

A type of disease in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells, platelets, or certain white blood cells. Chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms usually get worse over time as the number of extra cells build up in the blood and/or bone marrow. This may cause bleeding problems, anemia, infection, fatigue, or other signs and symptoms. Certain chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms may become acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms include chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), polycythemia vera, primary myelofibrosis, essential thrombocythemia, chronic neutrophilic leukemia, and chronic eosinophilic leukemia. Also called myeloproliferative neoplasm.

Clear cell sarcoma of soft tissue

A soft tissue tumor that begins in a tendon (tough, cord-like tissue that connects muscle to bone or to another part of the body). Under the microscope, clear cell sarcoma of soft tissue may look a lot like melanoma (a type of skin cancer). Clear cell sarcoma of soft tissue usually occurs in the leg or arm and it often spreads to nearby lymph nodes. It is most common in young adults.

Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma

A type of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer of the immune system) that is usually aggressive (fast-growing). It is the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and is marked by rapidly growing tumors in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, bone marrow, or other organs. Other symptoms include fever, night sweats, and weight loss. There are several subtypes of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma

Ewing sarcoma

A type of cancer that forms in bone or soft tissue. Also called peripheral primitive neuroectodermal tumor and pPNET.

FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization)

A physical mapping approach that uses fluorescein tags to detect hybridization of probes with metaphase chromosomes and with the less-condensed somatic interphase chromatin

Follicular lymphoma

A type of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer of the immune system) that is usually indolent (slow-growing). The tumor cells grow as groups to form nodules. There are several subtypes of follicular lymphoma.

Follicular thyroid cancer

Cancer that forms in follicular cells in the thyroid. It grows slowly and is highly treatable.

Fusion gene

A gene made by joining parts of two different genes. Fusion genes may occur naturally in the body by transfer of DNA between chromosomes. For example, the BCR-ABL gene found in some types of leukemia is a fusion gene. Fusion genes can also be made in the laboratory by combining genes or parts of genes from the same or different organisms.(Ref: Unified Medical Language System at the National Library of Medicine)

Fusion protein

A protein formed from transcription of two or more genes in sequence, with no stop codon in between them. They can occur naturally in cancer cells, and create complex proteins involved in cancerous mechanisms.(Ref: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/utilities/glossary/)

Giant cell tumor

A rare tumor that usually forms in bone, but may also form in cartilage, muscle, fat, blood vessels, or other supportive tissue in the body. Most giant cell tumors occur at the ends of the long bones of the arms and legs, near a joint (such as the knee, wrist, hip, or shoulder). Most are benign (not cancer) but some are malignant (cancer). Giant cell tumors usually occur in young and middle-aged adults. Also called GCT.

Glioblastoma multiforme

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. Glioblastoma multiforme usually occurs in adults and affects the brain more often than the spinal cord. Also called GBM, glioblastoma, and grade IV astrocytoma.

Glial tumor

A general term for tumors of the central nervous system, including astrocytomas, ependymal tumors, glioblastoma multiforme, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors.

Histiocytic lymphoma

An outdated term referring to non-Hodgkin lymphomas made up of large abnormal lymphoid cells. Histiocytic lymphomas include mature B-cell and T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Many tumors that were once called histiocytic lymphomas are now considered to be a type of large cell lymphoma

Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia

A rare form of childhood leukemia in which cancer cells often spread into tissues such as the skin, lung, and intestines. Also called JMML.

Karyotype

A photomicrograph of an individual's chromosomes arranged in a standard format showing the number, size, and shape of each chromosome type; used in low-resolution physical mapping to correlate gross chromosomal abnormalities with the characteristics of specific diseases.

Leiomyoma

A benign smooth muscle tumor, usually in the uterus or gastrointestinal tract. Also called fibroid.

Lipoma

A benign (not cancer) tumor made of fat cells

Liposarcoma

A rare cancer of the fat cells.

Lymphocytic leukemia

A type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes (white blood cells).

Lymphoma

Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One kind is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slow-growing) course and those that have an aggressive (fast-growing) course.

MicroRNA

MicroRNAs are short non-coding regulatory RNAs that control gene expression and play an important role in cancer development and progression.

Multiple myeloma

A type of cancer that begins in plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies). Also called Kahler disease, myelomatosis, and plasma cell myeloma.

Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma

A type of cancer that arises in cells in mucosal tissue that are involved in antibody production. Also called MALT lymphoma.

Myeloma

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

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Any of a large group of cancers of lymphocytes (white blood cells). Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur at any age and are often marked by lymph nodes that are larger than normal, fever, and weight loss. There are many different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These types can be divided into aggressive (fast-growing) and indolent (slow-growing) types, and they can be formed from either B-cells or T-cells. B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas include Burkitt lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, immunoblastic large cell lymphoma, precursor B-lymphoblastic lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma. T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas include mycosis fungoides, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma. Also called NHL.

Non-small cell lung cancer

A group of lung cancers that are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look under a microscope. The three main types of non-small cell lung cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common kind of lung cancer.

Neuroblastoma

Cancer that arises in immature nerve cells and affects mostly infants and children.

oncogene

Dominant-acting gene that stimulates cell division, leading to the formation of tumors and contributing to cancer; arises from mutated copies of a normal cellular gene (protooncogene).( Ref: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/utilities/glossary/)

Papillary thyroid cancer

Cancer that forms in follicular cells in the thyroid and grows in small finger-like shapes. It grows slowly, is more common in women than in men, and often occurs before age 45. It is the most common type of thyroid cancer.

Plasma cell myeloma

A type of cancer that begins in plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies). Also called Kahler disease, multiple myeloma, and myelomatosis.

Proto-oncogene

Normal cellular gene that controls cell division. When mutated, it may become an oncogene and contribute to cancer progression.(Ref: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/ utilities/ glossary/)

Prostate cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the prostate (a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum). Prostate cancer usually occurs in older men.

Salivary gland cancer

A rare cancer that forms in tissues of a salivary gland (gland in the mouth that makes saliva). Most salivary gland cancers occur in older people

Synovial sarcoma

A malignant tumor that develops in the synovial membrane of the joints.

T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia

An aggressive (fast-growing) type of leukemia (blood cancer) in which too many T-cell lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) are found in the bone marrow and blood. Also called precursor T-lymphoblastic leukemia and T-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia.

T-cell lymphoma

A type of cancer that forms in T cells (a type of immune system cell). T-cell lymphomas may be either indolent (slow-growing) or aggressive (fast-growing). Most T-cell lymphomas are non-Hodgkin lymphomas. There are many different types of T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas. These include mycosis fungoides, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma. Prognosis and treatment depend on type and stage of the cancer.

Thyroid cancer

Cancer that forms in the thyroid gland (an organ at the base of the throat that makes hormones that help control heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight). Four main types of thyroid cancer are papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer. The four types are based on how the cancer cells look under a microscope.

Transcription factor

A protein that binds to regulatory regions and helps control gene expression.( Ref: Human Genome Project Information at the U.S. Department of Energy )

Tumor suppressor genes

Gene that normally inhibits cell division. Recessive mutations in such genes often contribute to cancer.(Ref: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/utilities/glossary/)

Uterine sarcoma

A rare type of uterine cancer that forms in muscle or other tissues of the uterus (the small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis in which a fetus develops). It usually occurs after menopause. The two main types are leiomyosarcoma (cancer that begins in smooth muscle cells) and endometrial stromal sarcoma (cancer that begins in connective tissue cells).

Reference for glossary: http://www.cancer.gov/dictionary?expand=A