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Pharmaceutical Cancer diagnostics, genomics, prognostics & therapeutics glossary & taxonomy
Evolving Terminologies for Emerging Technologies
Comments? Questions? Revisions? Mary Chitty
Last revised December 19, 2014


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Cancer is an extraordinarily complex disease of uncontrolled cellular growth, proliferation, and spread, combined with very unique networks of chemical interactions between the tumor and its host. The disease is not singular in definition, but differs according to the organ site of origin; it often has important genetic and phenotypic subtype differences within the same site. National Cancer Institute, Nation's Investment in Cancer Research, Advancing Genomic Science Annual Plan and Budget Proposal Fiscal Year 2011 

angiogenesis: Cell biology

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antimetabolites: Anticancer drugs that closely resemble substances needed by cells for normal growth. The rumor cells uses the drug instead and "starves" for lack of proper substance.  Hartford Hospital, US, Glossary of Cancer Terms, taken from NIH Publication No. 93-2378 

apoptosis: Cell biology
artificial neural nets: Algorithms & data management 
Used for classifying cancers.

autoantibodies: A hallmark of both autoimmunity and cancer, represent an easily accessible surrogate for measuring adaptive immune responses to cancer. ... Serological analysis of arrays displaying the complete human proteome (seromics) represents a new era in cancer immunology, opening the way to defining the repertoire of the humoral immune response to cancer. Seromic profiling of ovarian and pancreatic cancer, Gnjatic S, et. al, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Mar 16;107(11):5088-93. Epub 2010 Mar 1

biological therapy: A type of treatment that works with your immune system. It can help fight cancer or help control side effects (how your body reacts to the drugs you are taking) from other cancer treatments like chemotherapy. Biological therapy and chemotherapy are both treatments that fight cancer. While they may seem alike, they work in different ways. Biological therapy helps your immune system fight cancer. Chemotherapy attacks the cancer cells directly.  National Cancer Institute, Biological Therapy 

biological tumor markers: Molecular products metabolized and secreted by neoplastic tissue and characterized biochemically in cells or body fluids. They are indicators of tumor stage and grade as well as useful for monitoring responses to treatment and predicting recurrence. Many chemical groups are represented including hormones, antigens, amino and nucleic acids, enzymes, polyamines, and specific cell membrane proteins and lipids. MeSH, 1988

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cancer biomarker validation: Rigorous validation of biomarkers for early detection of cancer differs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from similar processes common among research laboratories. As a newly discovered biomarker assay makes the transition from a research setting to the clinical diagnostic laboratory, it should progress through defined stages of assay confirmation. The first task of a validation laboratory is evaluation of research assay technology, performance, and specifications (analytical validation). However, the ultimate goal is initial validation of the test to identify early stage cancer (clinical validation). Upon technical and clinical confirmation, assays are moved systematically toward a standardized, reproducible, high-throughput format for clinical diagnostic implementation. Peter Barker, Cancer Biomarker Validation: Standards and Process: Roles for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 983:142-150 (2003) 

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Predictive Cancer Biomarkers
Molecular Biomarkers for Cancer Detection and Management
July 2013 Table of Contents | Tables and Figures  

"Cancer" biomarkers may also be present in benign neoplastic disease, which careful longitudinal clinical study has shown does not proceed to malignancy (13)(14). A vitally important and humbling example is the demonstration that oncogene markers such as c-erbB-2, p53, and cyclin D1, commonly thought to be cancer biomarkers, are also present in patients with benign breast disease who have been followed clinically for 15 years or longer without neoplastic progression. ... Even after more than 150 years of cell science, it must be recognized that our conceptual framework of cancer biology remains inadequate to recognize the ideal or optimal biomarker for most cancers. Furthermore, even if, as expected, our perspectives will change over time, we need to understand what we are looking for before investments in the search and evaluation for cancer biomarkers will be effective. KP Pritzker, Cancer biomarkers: Easier said than done, Clinical Chemistry, 48 (8): 1147- 1150 Aug. 2002 
Cancer Biomarkers Study Section CBSS
, NIH, Center for Scientific Review  See also cancer molecular markers

cancer clinical trials: This report examines the current status of in vivo imaging applications and in vitro cancer diagnostic tests, as well as their future potential as important screening tools. Cancer diagnostic technologies and assays are essential for the detection, diagnosis, and management of cancer. For certain cancers, methods are available for screening apparently healthy (asymptomatic) average-risk individuals. In addition, some cancers, such as cervical and colorectal cancers, can be detected in an even earlier, precancerous stage of development. Insight Pharma Reports, Cancer Diagnostics: Technology and Business Trends, 2005 

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cancer fragmentomics: 

cancer genomics: Cancer is a complex disease of genomic alteration, exploiting many different molecular mechanisms. Fighting cancer will ultimately require a comprehensive classification of cancers according to their genomic basis. Projects include: systematic studies of genome-wide loss and amplification; targeted resequencing to identify mutant genes in key pathways; and discovery of cancer-specific biomarkers. ... Cancer cells rely for their survival on the expression of a limited number of specific genes. Identifying these genes would yield, for the first time, a comprehensive catalog of the potential therapeutic targets for cancer. Projects include systematic use of RNA interference (RNAi) to identify such Achilles' heels of cancers. ... Genomic signatures provide a powerful way to recognize the effects of chemical compounds, both to understand cancer biology and to develop new therapeutics. Program activities include: Gene-Expression High-Throughput Screening (GE-HTS) to identify compounds that can induce specific developmental changes in cancer ... Other efforts include molecular pathology studies to map gene expression patterns to actual tumor architecture, integrating molecular signatures to predict cancer prognosis and treatment response, and developing robust computational biology tools to analyze and interpret the data generated across the large range of projects underway.  Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard 2010 

Herceptin is an example of a drug for which specific suitable patients can now be identified. Oncogenomics appears to be a synonym, but less frequently used than cancer genomics. (Glossary FAQ question # 3 outlines methodology.)  Related terms: CGAP Cancer Genome Anatomy Project, familial cancer, family history, germline mutations, oncogenomics, somatic cells, sporadic cancer   Narrower terms: cancer proteomics; familial cancer, family history, hereditary cancer, sporadic cancer.  

cancer immunome: Towards a Cancer Immunome Database, Victor Jongeneel,  Broader term: -Omes & -omics   immunome; Related terms: Expression gene & protein

cancer immunomics: The goal of our breast cancer immunomics project is to identify new antigens that can be used for diagnostics and therapy.  We have developed a technique that allows us to efficiently identify candidate antigens among millions of potential antigens. we are using two approaches for this project; the first is to use blood serum from patients with breast cancer to identify antigens that produce an immune response in patients with breast cancer. These might be good candidates for vaccines, because the body already creates a response, and we just have to enhance the effect. the second approach stems from the question: Does pregnancy immunize against breast cancer?...Finally we have been studying immunological deficits in patients with breast cancer. Michael Campbell, Breast Care Center, Univ. of California San Francisco   Broader term: -Omes & -omics  immunomics

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Cancer continues to pose a major health burden worldwide. Prevailing therapies are extremely limited in terms of safety, tolerability, and efficacy. Meanwhile, the morbidity and mortality associated with cancer is fueling interest in novel therapeutic approaches. Foremost among these are therapies that enhance the ability of the body's own immune system to fight and destroy abnormal cancer cells. Insight Pharma Reports  Cancer Immunotherapies and Vaccines: Pipelines Analysis and Competitive Dynamics, 2006

Recent developments have shown successful results for an active and passive immunotherapeutic approach to fight cancer. Modulating the immune system by either changing the immune cells or by creating patient specific vaccines offer good opportunities for novel pharmaceutical drug developments. Challenging areas such as humanized monoclonal antibodies, soluble receptors, immunorepressants and tumor treatment are seeing advances. See also Biomarkers

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cancer proteomics: The use of DNA microarrays to study cancer is as established as the technology itself [5, 6]. Transcriptome data is not only used to classify different types of cancer, but to shed light on known and unknown cancer genes: proto- oncogenes, oncogenes, and tumor suppressor genes. Proteome data, on the other hand, is not as pervasive, largely due to technological limitations. However, with the steady advancements in the tools mentioned above, “cancer proteomics” is becoming a reality. [James Kuo "Proteomics and its applications to cancer research" Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, Yale Univ. 2000]

cancer resources - for patients

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cancer vaccines: 
Using lessons learned from early cancer vaccines and immunotherapeutics, a new wave of programs are underway that promise improved efficacy and safety over a wider range of cancers. Emerging Cancer Immunotherapies and Vaccines will examine new targets and strategies in this space, along with important studies in preclinical development associated with developing these programs into successful drug products. Emerging Cancer Immunotherapies and Vaccines Conference August 2013 Order CD

Insight Pharma Reports Cancer Vaccines Market Study is focused around a conducted a targeted industry survey on therapeutic cancer vaccines, which was designed to focus on standardized immunogenic vaccines vs. autologous cell therapies or passive immunotherapies.

 Cancer Vaccines Market Study 2012 

Vaccines or candidate vaccines designed to prevent or treat cancer. Vaccines are produced using the patient's own whole tumor cells as the source of antigens, or using tumor-specific antigens, often recombinantly produced. MeSH 1997

Cancer vaccines are designed to boost the body’s natural ability to protect itself, through the immune system, from dangers posed by damaged or abnormal cells such as cancer cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of vaccines to prevent cancer: vaccines against the hepatitis B virus, which can cause liver cancer, and vaccines against human papillomavirus types 16 and 18, which are responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. The FDA has approved one cancer treatment vaccine for certain men with metastatic prostate cancer. Researchers are developing treatment vaccines against many types of cancer and testing them in clinical trials. National Cancer Institute, Cancer Vaccines 

While the common goal for cancer immunotherapeutics is to boost the immune system and thereby fight cancer in various stages, what is needed most for treating cancer successfully are more precisely-targeted therapies. The approaches vary widely and ideally it may be reached by using the patient’s own immune system or by inducing T-cells or “vaccines”, however, many obstacles and challenges still need to be overcome.  Broader terms: cancer immunotherapeutics 

cellular oncogene (proto-oncogene): A normal gene that when mutated or improperly expressed contributes to the development of cancer. (See Oncogene.)  

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chemoprediction: Involves predicting the response of a specific tumor to a range of chemotherapeutic agents. Utilizing genetic markers developed in the collaboration should allow cancer treatments to be selected on an individual patient basis, enabling physicians to select the most effective and least toxic chemotherapeutic agent for each patient. Mayo Clinic and Millennium Predictive Medicine establish strategic alliance, press release Nov, 9, 1998 Related terms:  cancer genomics, oncogenomics     Biomarkers

chemotherapy: Drug discovery & development

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Molecular characterization of tumour material will become increasingly important in selecting patients for clinical trials and offering appropriate treatment for patients in clinical practice. Recent advances in the field have indicated that the molecular characteristics of a tumour can be determined from circulating tumour cells and circulating tumour DNA; thus, a simple blood sample could provide these data in a simple, convenient and efficient manner. Circulating tumour-derived predictive biomarkers in oncology, Hodgson DR, Wellings R, Orr MC, McCormack R, Malone M, Board RE, Cantarini MV., AstraZeneca, Drug Discov Today. 2010 Feb;15(3-4):98-101. Epub 2010 Jan 4.  

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comparative oncology: 
The Comparative Oncology Program (COP) will serve as an example of an integrated comparative oncology program and will provide a mechanism by which naturally occurring cancer models can be used to generate new information about cancer, translate biological concepts regarding cancer to relevant in vivo models, and bring novel therapeutic options to the management of human cancers. Comparative Oncology Program, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, US 

cryochemotherapy:  By combining freezing with chemotherapy, he [Boris Rubinsky] and his colleagues [radiologist Gary Onik and scientists from the Institut Gustave- Roussy in Villejuif, France] hope to more precisely target malignant cells, while sparing healthy tissue around them. Cryosurgery is performed by inserting one or more cryoprobes, thin needles cooled with either argon gas or liquid nitrogen, into a tumor, turning the malignant mass into an ice ball. Doctors see where they are operating and monitor the freezing using ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging. Rachele Kanigel, Giving Cancer the Cold Shoulder, Forefront, College of Engineering, Univ. of California- Berkeley   

dominant (-acting) oncogene  A gene that stimulates cell proliferation and contributes to oncogenesis when present in a single copy. See oncogene [FAO glossary] 

driver mutations: Cancer genomes carry two classes of mutations: 'driver' mutations, which are positively selected because they are essential for tumour growth and development, and 'passenger' mutations, which are not subject to selection because they don't confer a growth advantage. Genomics: Beyond the usual suspects Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 6, 270-271 April 2007 doi:10.1038/nrd2301

drug development clinical oncology: Includes vaccines and immunotherapeutics, patient imaging, hot topics in clinical oncology research, circulating tumor cells, translational oncology biomarkers, oncology clinical trials. Strategies for Clinical Oncology Drug Development February 23-25, 2011 • San Francisco, CA Program | Register | Download Brochure Order CD

early detection of cancer:  Methods to identify and characterize cancer in the early stages of disease and predict tumor behavior. MeSH 2009  

endpoints, cancer drug clinical trials: 
Guidance for Industry, Clinical Trial Endpoints for the approval of cancer drugs and biologics, FDA 20207 

familial cancer:  The expression 'familial cancer' is used by some as a synonym of hereditary cancer, however, many (including the authors of  this program) use it simply to refer to the familial occurrence of  cancer (> 1 case in a family), not necessarily due to an inherited cancer predisposition. Some proven hereditary disorders include the word ‘familial’ in their name. [Familial Cancer Database On-line Manual. R.H. Sijmons & G.T.N. Burger, Groningen, The Netherlands, 2000   Related terms: hereditary cancer, sporadic cancer

FDA Office of Hematology and Oncology Products OHOP:

galectinomics: Knowledge about galectin expression by human tumor cells is mainly restricted to galectins-1 and -3. This study was conducted to define the gene expression pattern of all presently known human galectins in tumor cell lines of various histogenetic origin. H Lahm, S Andre, A Hoeflich, JR Fischer, B Sordat, H Kaltner, E Wolf, HJ Gabius, Comprehensive galectin fingerprinting in a panel of 61 human tumor cell lines by RT-PCR and its implications for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 127(6): 375- 386, 2001   

Gleevec: An early example of a drug that targets a genetic change that is characteristic of the disease being treated ... approved for treatment of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Gleevec inhibits Bcr- Abl tyrosine kinase, a protein that is created by the Philadelphia chromosome abnormality that is characteristic of CML.

hematological cancer therapies: In recent years, newer and more specific therapies for hematological cancers have been developed, such as targeted small-molecule drugs and biological therapies including monoclonal antibodies. However, there remains significant need from a clinical perspective, as well as challenges and opportunities for pharmaceutical companies. Hematological Cancer Therapies: Pipelines, Markets, and Business Considerations February 2012  Table of Contents | Tables and Figures  

, Genentech, US A preliminary (and promising) example of pharmacogenomics coming into clinical use.

hereditary cancer: The hallmark of hereditary cancer is that the associated germ- line mutation confers a high lifetime risk of cancer (often  >50 %, but no precise risk percentage has been defined in the literature). As a general rule, tumor development is a multi- step process in which in addition to the germline mutation in a gene, the normal ("wild type") copy of that gene and/ or other genes need to undergo somatic mutations before cancer develops. Familial Cancer Database On- line Manual. R.H. Simons & G.T.N. Burger, Groningen, The Netherlands, 2000     Related terms: familial cancer, sporadic cancer

imaging oncology: Imaging 

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mathematical oncology:
Clinical oncologists and tumour biologists possess virtually no comprehensive model to serve as a framework for understanding, organizing and applying their data... Fortunately, there are some signs of increasing acceptance of mathematical methods in experimental oncology. "Mathematical oncology: Cancer summed up" RA Gatenby, PK Maini, Nature 421 (6921): 321, Jan. 23, 2003  Related term: oncologic mathematics

methylation:  Proteins  methylation specific PCR: Gene amplification & PCR   methylome, methylomics, pharmacomethylomics: -Omes & - omics
molecular events:
Identifying the molecular alterations that distinguish any particular cancer cell from a normal cell will ultimately help to define the nature and predict the pathologic behavior of that cancer cell, as well as the responsiveness to treatment of that particular tumor. By understanding the profile of molecular changes in any particular cancer it will become possible to correlate the resulting phenotype of that cancer with molecular events. Resulting knowledge will offer the potential for a better understanding of cancer biology; the discovery of new tools and biomarkers for detection, diagnosis, and prevention studies; and new targets for therapeutic development. INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE MOLECULAR ANALYSIS OF CANCER: SBIR/STTR INITIATIVE, National Cancer Institute,  Release Date: May 14, 1999 

Molecular Targets Laboratory:  Recent advances and insights into the molecular pathogenesis of cancer provide unprecedented opportunities for discovery and development of novel, molecularly targeted diagnostic, therapeutic and preventative strategies and agents. The pivotal challenge to discovery and development of molecularly targeted prevention and therapeutics remains the definitive validation of human cancer-pertinent molecular targets for intervention. Such validation ultimately requires human clinical trials of specific molecularly targeted agents, and the demonstration that the desired clinical outcome is unequivocally the result of the corresponding molecular intervention. The critical foundation for the lead-discovery and preclinical research phase of molecular target validation is the basic research elucidating potential cancer-pertinent molecular targets. National Cancer Institute, NIH  Related terms:  molecularly targeted cancer therapies  See also Drug targets

molecular taxonomy: See also Phylogenetics  molecular taxonomy  Broader term: Information management & interpretation taxonomy

molecularly targeted cancer therapies: Drugs that selectively attack specific cancer-associated molecular receptors or pathways, impeding the growth and progression of cancer. Insight Pharma Reports, Oncogenomics, 2006   See also molecular targets for cancer

neosis: W Dr. (Raj) Rengaswami Rajaraman, Dalhousie Univ. NuTech, Nova Universities Technology, Canada, Cancer Biology & Therapy, Feb. 2004 

oncogene: A normal cellular gene which, when inappropriately expressed or mutated, can transform eukaryotic cells into tumour cells. [IUPAC Medicinal Chemistry]

Genes which can potentially induce neoplastic transformation. They include genes for growth factors, growth factor receptors, protein kinases, signal transducers, nuclear phosphoproteins, and transcription factors. When these genes are constitutively expressed after structural and/or regulatory changes, uncontrolled cell proliferation may result. Viral oncogenes have prefix "v-" before the gene symbol; cellular oncogenes (PROTO- ONCOGENES) have the prefix "c-" before the gene symbol. MeSH, 1983  Narrower terms: cellular oncogenes, dominant oncogene, immortalizing oncogene, proto-oncogene, recessive oncogene, viral oncogenes

oncogene proteins: Proteins coded by oncogenes. They include proteins resulting from the fusion of an oncogene and another gene (ONCOGENE PROTEINS, FUSION). MeSH, 1993

oncogenomics: The emergence of oncogenomics promises a new era of cancer care. Over the next decade or so, biomedical researchers hope to have fully catalogued all genetic alterations associated with cancer, greatly expanding the number of "druggable" anticancer molecular targets. Oncogenomics has already seen clinical and market success with a handful of "first-generation" oncogenomic therapeutics such as Herceptin, raising hope and expectations that safer and more effective patient-selected targeted therapeutics will revolutionize cancer therapy and transform cancer into a manageable chronic disease. Insight Pharma Reports, Oncogenomics: The future of cancer care, 2006   

oncologic mathematics:  HYPOTHESIS: Mathematical methods and their derivatives have practical applications to oncology. They can be used to describe fundamental aspects of tumor behavior, such as loss of genetic stability, tumor growth, immunologic identity, genesis of diversity, and methods of prognosticating cancer. DATA SOURCES: Descriptive models and published literature in the fields of oncology and applied mathematics. DATA SYNTHESIS: Cancer does not conform to simple mathematical principles. Its irregular mode of carcinogenesis, erratic tumor growth, variable response to tumoricidal agents, and poorly understood metastatic patterns constitute highly variable clinical behavior. Defining this process requires an accurate understanding of the interactions between tumor cells and host tissues and ultimately determines prognosis. Applying time- tested and evolving mathematical methods to oncology may provide new tools with inherent advantages for the description of tumor behavior, selection of therapeutic modes, prediction of metastatic patterns, and providing an inclusive basis for prognostication. ... CONCLUSION: Experimentally testable, oncologic mathematics may provide a framework to determine clinical outcome on a patient- specific basis and increase the growing awareness that mathematical models help simplify seemingly complex and random tumor behavior. "Oncologic mathematics: evolution of a new specialty" RY Chandawarkar, DP Guyton, Archives of Surgery 137(12): 1428- 1434, Dec. 2002  Related term: mathematical oncology

oncolytic virotherapy: Oncolytic virotherapy is an emerging biotherapeutic platform for cancer treatment, which is based on selective infection/killing of cancer cells by viruses. Anticancer oncolytic activity of respiratory syncytial virus, Echchgadda  S KotaI DeLa Cruz, A Sabbah, T Chang, R Harnack, V Mgbemena, B Chatterjee and S Bos, Cancer Gene Therapy (2009) 16, 923–935; doi:10.1038/cgt.2009.34; published online 15 May 2009 

oncopharmacogenomics: Pharmacogenomics

oncoproteomics:  Proteomic technologies are now being incorporated in oncology in the post- genomic era. Cancer involves alterations in protein expression and provides a good model not only for detection of biomarkers but also their use in drug discovery. Proteomics has an impact on diagnostics as well as drug discovery. Genomics still remains an important approach but the value of proteomics lies in the fact that most of the diagnostics and drugs target proteins.  Kewal K. Jain, Oncoproteomics, Technology in cancer research and treatment 1(4), Aug. 2002 CFID

operomics: -Omes & -omics

p53: Tumor suppressor genes located on the short arm of human chromosome 17 and coding for the phosphoprotein p53. MeSH, 1991  Broader term: tumor suppressor gene

passenger mutations: See under driver mutations

passive immunotherapies: antibody products, for prevention of infection or for treatment of many diseases, including cancer, is widespread. In addition, some nonspecific immunomodulators on the market are used to treat certain cancers. Insight Pharma Reports, Immunotherapies & Vaccines for Cancer & Infectious Diseases, 2008 

pathway targeted therapies cancer: 

patient navigation:
The Patient Navigation Research Program aims to develop innovative patient navigation interventions to reduce or eliminate cancer health disparities and test their efficacy and cost- effectiveness. These interventions are designed to decrease the time between a cancer-related abnormal finding, definitive diagnosis, and delivery of quality standard cancer care services. Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, National Cancer Institute, NIH 

Patient navigation is a process by which an individual—a patient navigator—guides patients with a suspicious finding (e.g, test shows they may have cancer) through and around barriers in the complex cancer care system to help ensure timely diagnosis and treatment.1 Barriers to quality care fall into a number of categories2: Financial and economic, Language and cultural, Communication, Health care system, Transportation, Bias based on culture/race/age, Fear  Pfizer Oncology, 2008 

precancerous:  There has been a lack of uniform terminology for the precancerous and non- invasive lesions. Reasons for this lack relate in part to changing concepts about the biology of these lesions, subjective interpretation of criteria, heterogeneity of the neoplastic cell population, less than optimal interobserver reproducibility, and even changes in treatment. Very often descriptive terms applied to these lesions contain a mixture of diagnostic and prognostic meanings. Classifying the precancers: A metadata approach Jules J Berman*1 and Donald E Henson2 BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2003, 3:8

predictive oncology:  Essentially promotes primary cancer prevention by assessment of cancer susceptibility and control of genotoxic exposures and of the basic mechanisms that may lead to the development of neoplastic diseases. Predictive oncology incorporates also identification of cancer prone individuals and prognostic evaluation of tumor development and progression as well as lifestyle modification. Cancer Prediction and Prevention Online, International Society for Preventive Oncology

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preventive oncology:
For secondary prevention focuses on routine clinical and laboratory procedures for early detection and treatment of cancer, patient management and education, management of curable lesions, education and lifestyle modification. Involves: screening modalities and their cost effectiveness, methodological issues of cancer detection, public awareness and professional education, screening guidelines for cancer detection, clinical and laboratory aspects of cancer detection, management of patients with preneoplastic alterations, management of early curable neoplasms, novel therapeutic approaches. Cancer Prediction and Prevention Online, International Society for Preventive Oncology

proto-oncogene: See cellular oncogene

proto-oncogene proteins: Products of proto-oncogenes. Normally they do not have oncogenic or transforming properties, but are involved in the regulation or differentiation of cell growth. They often have protein kinase activity. MeSH, 1991

recessive oncogene; recessive-acting oncogene; anti-oncogene A single copy of this gene is sufficient to suppress cell proliferation; the loss of both copies of the gene contributes to cancer formation. See oncogene FAO glossary 

solid tumors: Therapies for Solid Tumors September 2012 Table of Contents | Tables and Figures

sporadic cancer: Cancer that occurs randomly and is not inherited from parents. Caused by DNA changes in one cell that grows and divides, spreading throughout the body. DOE  Related terms: familial cancer, family history, hereditary cancer

targeted cancer therapies:  Drugs or other substances that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules involved in tumor growth and progression. Because scientists often call these molecules “molecular targets,” targeted cancer therapies are sometimes called “molecularly targeted drugs,” “molecularly targeted therapies,” or other similar names. By focusing on molecular and cellular changes that are specific to cancer, targeted cancer therapies may be more effective than other types of treatment, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and less harmful to normal cells.  National Cancer Institute, Targeted Cancer Therapy 

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tumor markers: Tumor markers are substances produced by tumor cells or by other cells of the body in response to cancer or certain benign (noncancerous) conditions. These substances can be found in the blood, in the urine, in the tumor tissue, or in other tissues. Different tumor markers are found in different types of cancer, and levels of the same tumor marker can be altered in more than one type of cancer. In addition, tumor marker levels are not altered in all people with cancer, especially if the cancer is early stage. Some tumor marker levels can also be altered in patients with noncancerous conditions. Tumor Markers Q&A, National Cancer Institute 

Tumor markers are substances, usually proteins, that are produced by the body in response to cancer growth or by the cancer tissue itself. Some tumor markers are specific for one type of cancer, while others are seen in several cancer types. Many of the well-known markers are seen in non-cancerous conditions as well as cancer. Consequently, these tumor markers are not diagnostic for cancer. Lab Tests Online, American Association for Clinical Chemistry in collaboration with ACLA, ASCLS, ASM, CLMA, ASH, AMP, ASCP, NCCLS, CAP, CSLMS, CSCC, CLAS, NACB and  ACB. 

tumor microenvironment (TME):  Consists of cells, soluble factors, signaling molecules, extracellular matrix, and mechanical cues that can promote neoplastic transformation, support tumor growth and invasion, protect the tumor from host immunity, foster therapeutic resistance, and provide niches for dormant metastases to thrive. An American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) special conference held on November 3–6, 2011, addressed five emerging concepts in our understanding of the TME: its dynamic evolution, how it is educated by tumor cells, pathways of communication between stromal and tumor cells, immunomodulatory roles of the lymphatic system, and contribution of the intestinal microbiota.    Tumor Microenvironment Complexity: Emerging Roles in Cancer Therapy Melody A. Swartz 1Noriho Iida 2, Edward W. Roberts 3, Sabina Sangaletti 4, Melissa H. Wong 5, Fiona E. Yull 6, Lisa M. Coussens 5 , and  Yves A. DeClerck 7 Cancer Res May 15, 2012 72; 2473 Published OnlineFirst March 13, 2012; doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12- 0122

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tumor suppressor gene: A protective gene that normally limits the growth of tumors. When a tumor suppressor is mutated, it may fail to keep a cancer from growing. BRCA1 and p53 are well- known tumor suppressor genes. NHGRI

Genes that inhibit expression of the tumorigenic phenotype. They are normally involved in holding cellular growth in check. When tumor suppressor genes are inactivated or lost, a barrier to normal proliferation is removed and unregulated growth is possible. MeSH, 2002

Ken Kinzler and Bert Vogelstein distinguish between "gatekeeper" tumor suppressor genes (classical) and "caretakers" (in DNA repair and genome integrity, whose action lies outside the pathway). KW Kinzler, B. Vogelstein "Cancer- susceptibility genes. Gatekeepers and caretakers" Nature 386 (6627): 761, 763 Apr. 24, 1997 Narrower terms: caretaker tumor suppressor genes, gatekeeper tumor suppressor genes, p53; Related term: Gene categories suppressor gene

tumor suppressor proteins: Proteins that are normally involved in holding cellular growth in check. Deficiencies or abnormalities in these proteins may lead to unregulated cell growth and tumor development. MeSH, 2002

BioMedCentral, Cancer Gateway  
caBIGTM Glossary of Terms & Definitions, Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid, National cancer Institute,  
IUPAC, Classification of carcinogenicity, IUPAC glossary of toxicology, 2007 
MeSH Medical Subject Headings, (PubMed Browser) National Library of Medicine, 
NCI National Cancer Institute, Dictionary of cancer terms, about 4,000 terms. Updated monthly
NCI Metathesaurus Browser, National Cancer Institute, NIH, US  Maps 4,000,000 terms from more than 75 sources into 2,000,000 biomedical concepts.  
NCI, PDQ, Physicians Data Query,  Comprehensive cancer database, Cancer information summaries, clinical trials, links to other cancer resources
NCI Term Browser, National Cancer Institute be used to view and search the NCI Thesaurus and other biomedical vocabularies. 
OncoLink, University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center Comprehensive information about specific types of cancer, updates on cancer treatments and news about research advances. Updated every day,  information at various levels, from introductory  to in-depth.

Therapeutic indications Conferences:
Therapeutic indications CDs, DVDs
Therapeutic indications Short courses

Insight Pharma Reports Cancer

Cancer and statistics
Stephen Jay Gould's essay "The Median isn't the Message" is a wonderful essay on interpreting statistics and the medical literature, and particularly useful for those of us who quickly head to a library and/ or the web with very specific and personal interest in a medical topic. 

Robert Weinberg's Racing to the Beginning of the Road : The Search for the Origin of Cancer 1998 is a very readable account of top rate biomedical research, a good reminder that these "races" are marathons and not 100 yard dashes. The title is one of my favorite metaphors for the complexity of biology. This explanation of how nonlinear progress from lab to clinic can be is highly recommended. 

Welch, Gilbert H. Should I Be Tested for Cancer? Univ of California Press, 2004. 

Other patient and disease related websites Genetic & genomic testing, Patient resources

Alpha glossary index
How to look for other unfamiliar  terms

IUPAC definitions are reprinted with the permission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

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