Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) - An aggressive (fast-growing) type of leukemia
(blood cancer) in which too many lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) are found
in the blood and bone marrow; also called acute lymphocytic leukemia.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) - A disease caused by the human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV). People with AIDS are at an increased risk for developing
certain cancers and for infections that usually occur only in individuals with a weak
Anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase (ALK) – The ALK gene makes the
ALK protein, which is found on the surface of some cells. The protein can initiate a
variety of signaling pathways, causing the cells it is found in to proliferate. The ALK
gene is altered in several types of cancer, including some lymphomas, some
neuroblastomas and some non–small cell lung carcinomas.
Androgen - A type of hormone that promotes the development and maintenance of
male sex characteristics.
Basal cell carcinoma - A form of skin cancer that begins in a type of cell in the skin
that produces new skin cells as old ones die off. It is the most common cancer, but it
B cell - A type of immune cell that makes proteins, called antibodies, which bind to
microorganisms and other foreign substances, and help fight infections. A B cell is a
type of white blood cell; also called B lymphocyte.
BCR-Abl – A protein made from pieces of two genes that are joined together. It is
found in most patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), and in some
patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) or acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).
Inside the leukemia cells, the ABL gene from chromosome 9 joins to the BCR gene on
chromosome 22 to form the BCR-Abl fusion gene, which makes the BCR-Abl fusion
Bioinformatics - The science of using computers, databases and mathematics to
organize and analyze large amounts of biological, medical and health information.
Information may come from many sources, including patient statistics, tissue
specimens, genetics research and clinical trials.
Biomedical Research Inflation - Biomedical inflation is calculated using the annual
change in the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index (BRDPI), which
indicates how much the NIH budget must change to maintain purchasing power. Over
the last five year, the biomedical inflation rate has been double the economy-wide
inflation rate on average.
Biospecimen - Samples of material, such as urine, blood, tissue, cells, DNA, RNA and
protein from humans, animals or plants. Biospecimens are stored in a biobank or
biorepository and are used for laboratory research. If the samples are from people,
medical information may also be stored along with a written consent to use the
samples in laboratory studies.
Biomarker - A biological molecule found in blood, other body fluids or tissues that is a
sign of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease. A biomarker may be
used to see how well the body responds to a treatment for a disease or condition; also
called molecular marker and signature molecule.
B-RAF – The B-RAF protein is generated from the BRAF gene. It is found inside certain
cell types, where it is involved in sending signals that direct cell proliferation.
Mutations in the BRAF gene have been associated with various cancers, including
some non-Hodgkin lymphomas, colorectal cancers, melanomas, thyroid cancers and
BRCA1/2 (Breast Cancer Resistance Genes 1 and 2) - Genes that normally help to
suppress cell growth. A person who inherits certain mutations (changes) in a BRCA1 or
BRCA2 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, prostate and some other types
Cancer - A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can
invade nearby tissues. Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body through
the blood and lymph systems. There are several main types of cancer. Carcinoma is a
cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs. Sarcoma
is a cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels or other
connective or supportive tissue. Leukemia is a cancer that starts in blood-forming
tissue such as the bone marrow, and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to
be produced and enter the blood. Lymphoma and multiple myeloma are cancers that
begin in the cells of the immune system. Central nervous system cancers are cancers
that begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord. Also called malignancy.
Carcinogen - Any substance that causes cancer.
Cervical cancer – A group of cancers that are named for the kinds of cells found in
the cancer and by how they look under a microscope. The two main types of cervical
cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Most cervical cancers are
caused by persistent infection with certain strains of human papilloma virus (HPV).
Normal cells of the cervix do not suddenly become cancerous, they first gradually
develop pre-cancerous changes then later turn into cancer. These changes can be
detected by the Pap test and treated to prevent the development of cancer.
Chemoprevention - The use of drugs, vitamins or other agents to try to reduce the
risk of, or delay the development or recurrence of, cancer.
Chemotherapy - The use of different drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells
Chromosome - Part of a cell that contains genetic information. Except for sperm and
eggs, all human cells contain 46 chromosomes.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) - A slowly progressing disease in which too
many white blood cells (not lymphocytes) are made in the bone marrow. Also called
chronic granulocytic leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia.
Clinical trial - A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches
work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis, or
treatment of a disease. Also called clinical study.
Clinical trial phase - A part of the clinical research process that answers specific
questions about whether treatments that are being studied work and are safe. Phase I
trials test the best way to give a new treatment and the best dose. Phase II trials test
whether a new treatment has an effect on the disease. Phase III trials compare the
results of people taking a new treatment with the results of people taking the standard
treatment. Phase IV trials are done using thousands of people after a treatment has
been approved and marketed, to check for side effects that were not seen in the phase
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 – A group of cancers that start in the colon or the rectum. More
than 95% of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas that start in cells that form
glands that make mucus to lubricate the inside of the colon and rectum. Before a
cancer develops, a growth of tissue or tumor usually begins as a non-cancerous polyp
on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Most polyps can be found, for example
through colonoscopy, and removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer.
Computed tomography (CT) - A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body
taken from different angles. The pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray
machine. Also called CAT scan, computerized axial tomography scan, and
Cytotoxic chemotherapy - Anticancer drugs that kill cells, especially cancer cells.
C TLA- 4 (Cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen- 4) – A protein on the surface of immune
cells called T cells (see T cell). When CTLA- 4 attaches to certain proteins on other
immune cells, it sends signals into the T cells to tell them to slow down and stop
acting aggressively. Thus, CTLA- 4 acts as an immune checkpoint protein.
Double contrast magnetic imaging resonance (DC-MRI) - A procedure in which
radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed
pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures can show the difference between
normal and diseased tissue. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) makes better images
of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as computed
tomography (CT) or x-ray. MRI is especially useful for imaging the brain, the spine, the
soft tissue of joints and the inside of bones. DC-MRI uses repeated imaging to track
the entrance of diffusible contrast agents into tissue over time.
Death rate/mortality rate - The number of deaths in a certain group of people in a
certain period of time. Mortality may be reported for people who have a certain
disease, live in one area of the country, or who are of a certain gender, age or ethnic
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) – The molecules inside cells that carry genetic
information and pass it from one generation to the next.
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.
EGFR (Epidermal growth factor receptor) - A protein found on the surface of some
cells to which epidermal growth factor binds, causing the cells to proliferate. It is found
at abnormally high levels on the surface of many types of cancer cells, so these cells
may divide excessively in the presence of epidermal growth factor; also called ErbB1
Endpoint - In clinical trials, an event or outcome that can be measured objectively to
determine whether the intervention being studied is beneficial. The endpoints of a
clinical trial are usually included in the study objectives. Some examples of endpoints
are survival, improvements in quality of life, relief of symptoms and disappearance of
Epidemiology - The study of the patterns, causes and control of disease in groups of
Epigenetics - The study of heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype
caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Examples
of such changes might be DNA methylation or histone deacetylation, both of which
serve to suppress gene expression without altering the sequence of the silenced genes.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) - A common virus that remains dormant in most people. It
causes infectious mononucleosis and has been associated with certain cancers,
including Burkitt’s lymphoma, immunoblastic lymphoma, and nasopharyngeal
Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) - An inherited condition in which numerous
polyps (growths that protrude from mucous membranes) form on the inside walls of
the colon and rectum. It increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Also called familial