University of Southern California
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center




ABNORMAL CELL GROWTH ? activity that is characteristic of cancer.

ABLATIVE ? to remove by cutting.

ADENOCARCINOMA ? cancer that begins in cells that line certain internal organs and that have glandular (secretory) properties.

ADJUVANT ? serving to aid or contribute; involving the use of, or functioning as, a medical adjuvant (the action of a certain bacteria).

ANTIBODIES ? a large number of proteins that are produced normally after stimulation by an antigen and act specifically against the antigen in an immune response.

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 tumor.


BASIC SCIENCE ? the investigation of a subject to increase knowledge and understanding about it. The information gathered from basic science research is essential for translating or applying new discoveries to patient care. Examples include studies of cell signaling, genetic mutations associated with specific types of cancer and how tumors evade the body?s immune system.

BENIGN ? not cancerous. Benign tumors do not spread to tissues around them or to other parts of the body.

BILIARY ? having to do with the liver, bile ducts and/or gallbladder.

BIOPSY ? the removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist may study the tissue under a microscope or perform other tests on the cells or tissue. When only a sample of tissue is removed, the procedure is called an incisional 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, core biopsy, or fine-needle aspiration.


CANCER ? a term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control.

CANCER REGISTRY ? a record that chronicles information about all new cancer cases, to gain an understanding of the demographic patterns and etiology of cancer.

CARCINOGENESIS ? the process by which normal cells are transformed into cancer cells.

CARCINOMA ? cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.

CARDIOPULMONARY BYPASS ? to surgically insert a shunt to bypass a chamber of the heart to carry blood directly to the aorta.

CHEMOPREVENTION ? the use of drugs, vitamins, or other agents to try to reduce the risk of, or delay the development or recurrence of, cancer.

CHEMOTHERAPEUTIC AGENTS ? an agent used in chemotherapy.

CHEMOTHERAPY ? the use of chemical agents or anticancer drugs in the treatment or control of disease.

CHROMOSOMAL TRANSLOCATION ? a condition where a fragment of one chromosome is broken off and is then attached to another. Depending on which piece of chromosome is moved to where, this results in a wide range of medical problems, such as leukemia, breast cancer, schizophrenia or muscular dystrophy.

CLINICAL TRIAL ? a clinical trial is a research study that involves human volunteers with specific health conditions. The trials allow the examination of a proposed drug or therapy in a controlled environment to determine its safety and effectiveness in treating patients with certain conditions.

COHORT ? a group of individuals who are alike in many ways but differ by a certain characteristic. A cohort study compares a particular outcome in these groups ? for example, breast cancer in female teachers with a family member who has had breast cancer versus those who haven?t.

COLLAGEN ? a fibrous protein that cannot be dissolved.

COMPREHENSIVE CANCER CENTER ? designation by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) indicating the fulfillment of criteria related to research and public information, education and outreach activities.

CONTINENCE ? the ability to retain a bodily discharge (urine or fecal) voluntarily.

CONTINENT URINARY RESERVOIRS ? an internal urinary reservoir that is catheterized, allowing patients to urinate through an opening in the skin (see Koch pouch).

CORE BIOPSY ? the removal of a tissue sample with a needle for examination under a microscope.

CT IMAGES ? x- ray photographs in which the shadows of structures before and behind the object being viewed do not appear.

CYSTECTOMY ? surgery to remove all or part of the bladder.

CYTOTOXIC ? chemicals that are directly toxic to cells, preventing their reproduction or growth. Cytotoxic agents can, as a side effect, damage healthy, noncancerous tissues or organs that have a high proportion of actively dividing cells ? for example, bone marrow or hair follicles. These side effects limit the amount and frequency of drug administration.


DNA METHYLATION ? the addition of a methyl group to a stretch of DNA, which can lock, or silence, that gene. If methylation silences a gene that normally would control cell growth or prompt the cell to commit suicide, then the cell will grow unchecked ? the hallmark of cancer.


EPIDEMIOLOGY ? the study of the patterns, causes and control of disease in groups of people.

EPIGENETICS ? the study of changes in gene silencing that occur without changes in the genes themselves. Many genes in the body are permanently turned off as part of normal development. But sometimes that process goes awry, turning off genes that should otherwise remain active. This field of study and its associated therapies aims to switch these genes back on. It is a new approach to the treatment of aging, inherited diseases and cancer.

ETIOLOGY ? the cause or origin of disease.

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.


FINE-NEEDLE ASPIRATION ? the removal of tissue or fluid with a needle for examination under a microscope. Also called needle biopsy.


GASTROINTESTINAL ? pertaining to the stomach and intestines. The major subsites of GI cancer are stomach/esophagus, colorectum and hepatobiliary.

GENETICS ? a branch of biology that deals with the hereditary and variation of organisms. Anything that is genetic is inherited and having to do with information that is passed from parents to offspring through genes in sperm and egg cells.

GENETIC COUNSELING ? a communication process between a specially trained health professional and a person concerned about the genetic risk of disease. The person's family and personal medical history may be discussed, and counseling may lead to genetic testing, which analyzes DNA to look for a genetic alteration that may indicate an increased risk for developing a specific disease or disorder.

GENE THERAPY ? treatment that alters a gene. In studies of gene therapy for cancer, researchers are trying to improve the body's natural ability to fight the disease or to make the cancer cells more sensitive to other kinds of therapy.

GENITOURINARY ? the parts of the body that play a role in reproduction, getting rid of waste products in the form of urine, or both. The most common genitourinary cancers are bladder and prostate; it also includes renal and testicular cancers.

GENITOURINARY TRACT ? the system of organs concerned with the production and excretion of urine.

GROSS HEMATURIA ? visible blood or blood cells in the urine.

GYNECOLOGIC ? having to do with the female reproductive tract (including the cervix, endometrium, fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus and vagina). Gynecologic oncology concerns endometrial, ovarian, uterine and cervical cancer.


HEMATOLOGY ? specialty in treating blood disorders.

HEPATIC VEIN ? any of the veins that carry the blood received from the hepatic artery and from the hepatic portal vein away from the liver.

HEPATOBILIARY ? pertaining to the liver and the bile or the biliary ducts.

HEPATOCELLULAR CARCINOMA ? a type of adenocarcinoma, the most common type of liver tumor.

HISTONE ? a type of protein found in chromosomes. Histones bind to DNA, help give chromosomes their shape, and help control the activity of genes.

HORMONAL THERAPIES ? therapeutic use of hormones for the treatment of cancer. To slow or stop the growth of certain cancers (such as prostate and breast cancer), synthetic hormones or other drugs may be given to block the body's natural hormones.

HYSTERECTOMY ? surgery to remove the uterus and, sometimes, the cervix. When the uterus and part or all of the cervix are removed, it is called a total hysterectomy. When only the uterus is removed, it is called a partial hysterectomy.


IMMUNOTHERAPY ? treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight infections and other diseases. Also used to lessen certain side effects that may be caused by cancer treatment.

IMPOTENCE ? an abnormal physical or psychological state of a male characterized by the inability to copulate because of failure to have or maintain an erection.

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.

INCONTINENCE ? the inability of the body to control the evacuative functions of the bladder or rectum.

INTRAOPERATIVE ? occurring, carried out, or encountered in the course of surgery.

INTRAOPERATIVE RADIATION THERAPY (IORT) ? radiation treatment aimed directly at a tumor during surgery.

INVESTIGATIONAL THERAPIES ? therapies that are being explored (but not yet accepted for widespread clinical use) for their therapeutic effectiveness.


KAPOSI'S SARCOMA ? a type of cancer characterized by the abnormal growth of blood vessels that develop into skin lesions or occur internally.

KOCH POUCH ? restructured bladder and continent urinary diversion system consisting of an internal reservoir that is catheterized, allowing patients to urinate through an opening in the skin.


LEUKEMIA ? 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 bloodstream.

LYMPH NODES ? any of the rounded masses of lymphoid tissue surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue that occur in association with the lymphatic vessels.

LYMPH NODE DISSECTION ? a surgical procedure in which lymph nodes are removed and examined to see whether they contain cancer. Also called lymphadenectomy.

LYMPHOMA ? cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system.


MALIGNANT ? cancerous.

MALIGNANCY ? the quality or state of being cancerous.

MASTECTOMY ? surgery to remove the breast (or as much of the breast tissue as possible).

MEDICAL ONCOLOGIST ? a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and biological therapy. A medical oncologist often is the main health care provider for a person who has cancer. A medical oncologist also gives supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists.

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

MESOTHELIOMA ? a benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) tumor affecting the lining of the chest or abdomen. Exposure to asbestos particles in the air increases the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.

METASTASIS ? the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. A tumor formed by cells that have spread is called a "metastatic tumor" or a "metastasis." The metastatic tumor contains cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumor.

METASTASIZE ? to spread from one part of the body to another. When cancer cells metastasize and form secondary tumors, the cells in the metastatic tumor are like those in the original (primary) tumor.

METASTATIC CANCER ? cancer that has spread from the place in which it started to other parts of the body.

MODALITY ? a method of treatment. For example, surgery and chemotherapy are treatment modalities.

MOLECULAR BIOLOGY ? a branch of biology dealing with the physicochemical organization of living matter.

MOLECULAR GENETICS ? the study of the flow and regulation of genetic information between DNA, RNA and protein molecules.

MULTIPLE MYELOMA ? cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system.


NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE (NCI) ? the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NCI coordinates the National Cancer Program, which conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer, rehabilitation from cancer, and the continuing care of cancer patients and the families of cancer patients.

NEEDLE BIOPSY ? the removal of tissue or fluid with a needle for examination under a microscope. Also called fine-needle aspiration.

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.

NEUROVASCULAR BUNDLES ? a small band of mostly parallel fibers involving both nerves and blood vessels.

NEURO-ONCOLOGY ? specialty concerning the diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors and other tumors of the nervous system.


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.

ORCHIECTOMY ? surgery to remove one or both testicles. Also called orchidectomy.

ORTHOTOPIC ? of or relating to the grafting of tissue in a natural position (transplant).


PATHOGENESIS ? the origin and development of disease.

PATHOLOGIST ? a physician who interprets and analyzes the changes caused by disease in tissues and body fluids.

PEER-REVIEWED ? scrutiny by one's peers. Peer-reviewed articles appearing in medical journals have been scrutinized by members of the biomedical community before publication.

PHARMACOGENETICS ? the convergence of pharmacology and genetics dealing with genetically determined responses to drugs.

PHARMACOTHERAPY ? the treatment of a disease with drugs.

POSTERIOR ? laterally situated at or toward the hinder end of the body, lying at or extending toward the right or left side of the body.

PROSTATECTOMY ? an operation to remove part or all of the prostate. Radical (or total) prostatectomy is the removal of the entire prostate and some of the tissue around it.


RADIATION ONCOLOGIST ? a specialist in cancer utilizing radiation as a means of treatment.

RADICAL CYSTECTOMY ? surgery to remove the bladder as well as nearby tissues and organs.

RADICAL HYSTERECTOMY ? surgery to remove the uterus, cervix and part of the vagina. The ovaries, fallopian tubes and nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.

RADICAL LYMPH NODE DISSECTIONM ? a surgical procedure to remove most or all of the lymph nodes that drain lymph from the area around a tumor. The lymph nodes are then examined under a microscope to see if cancer cells have spread to them.

RADICAL MASTECTOMY ? surgery for breast cancer in which the breast, chest muscles, and all of the lymph nodes under the arm are removed.

RADICAL NEPHRECTOMY ? surgery to remove an entire kidney, nearby adrenal gland and lymph nodes, and other surrounding tissue.

RADICAL ORCHIECTOMY ? surgical excision of a testis or of both testes, designed to remove the root of a disease or all diseased tissue.

RADICAL PERINEAL PROSTATECTOMY ? surgery to remove all of the prostate through an incision between the scrotum and the anus. Nearby lymph nodes are sometimes removed through a separate incision in the wall of the abdomen.

RADICAL PROSTATECTOMY ? surgery to remove the entire prostate. The two types of radical prostatectomy are retropubic prostatectomy and perineal prostatectomy.

RADICAL RETROPUBIC PROSTATECTOMY ? surgery to remove all of the prostate and nearby lymph nodes through an incision in the wall of the abdomen.

RADIOTHERAPY ? the treatment of disease by radiation.

RENAL CELL CARCINOMA ? a malignant tumor relating to, involving, affecting, or located in the region of the kidneys.


SARCOMA ? cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels or other connective or supportive tissue.

STOMA ? any of various small simple openings, an artificial permanent opening in the abdominal wall made in surgical procedures (a colostomy).


T- POUCH ? developed to avoid the complication of kidney damage due to urine back- logging into the kidneys after it reaches the makeshift bladder fashioned by orthotopic diversion.

THROMBUS ? a clot of blood floating within the blood vessel.

TRANSLATIONAL RESEARCH ? the clinical application of scientific medical research, from the lab to the bedside.

TUMOR ? an abnormal mass of tissue that is not inflammatory, arises from cells of preexistent tissue, and serves no useful purpose. A tumor results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should.

TUMORIGENESIS ? formation or production of tumors.


UROLOGIC ONCOLOGIST ? a specialist in cancer relating to the urinary tract or urology.

UROLOGIC ONCOLOGY ? the study of tumors of, or relating to, the urinary tract.


VENA CAVA ARTERY ? two large veins which return blood to the right atrium of the heart.