Glossary

Adenocarcinoma - cancer that starts in glandular tissue, such as in the ducts or lobules of the breast.

Adjuvant therapy - treatment used in addition to the main treatment. The term usually refers to hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy added after surgery to increase the chances of curing the disease or keeping it in check.

Advanced cancer - a general term describing stages of cancer in which the disease has spread from the primary site (where it started) to other parts of the body. When the cancer has spread only to nearby areas, it is called locally advanced. If it has spread to distant parts of the body, it is called metastatic.

Cancer - when cells in the body begin to grow abnormally out of control. Normal cells grow, divide, and die. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow and form new abnormal cells. Cancer cells often travel to other body parts where they grow and replace normal tissue. This process, called metastasis, occurs as the cancer cells get into the bloodstream or lymph vessels. Cancer cells develop because of damage to DNA. DNA is in every cell and directs all its activities. When DNA becomes damaged the body is able to repair it. In cancer cells, the damage is not repaired. People can inherit damaged DNA, which accounts for inherited cancers. Many times, DNA becomes damaged by exposure to something in the environment, like smoking.

Cancer of unknown primary (CUP) - metastatic cancer with its primary cancer site unknown and remaining unidentified.

Carcinoma - a malignant tumor that begins in the lining layer (epithelial cells) of organs. At least 80% of all cancers are carcinomas.

Chemotherapy - treatment with drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used with surgery or radiation to treat cancer when the cancer has spread, when it has come back (recurred), or when there is a strong chance that it could recur.

Core biopsy - removal of a cylindrical sample of tissue from a tumor using a thick needle.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) - the molecule that carries genetic information in all living systems. The DNA molecule is formed in the shape of a double helix from a great number of smaller molecules. The workings of the DNA molecule provide the most fundamental explanation of the laws of genetics.

Drug resistance - refers to the ability of cancer cells to become resistant to the effects of the drugs used to treat cancer.

Gene - a segment of DNA that contains information on hereditary characteristics such as hair color, eye color, and height, as well as susceptibility to certain diseases. See also DNA.

H/I - an index composed of expression levels of HOXB13 and IL17BR and used to stratify breast cancer patients into high or low risk of recurrence.

Histology - how cells or tissues look when studied under a microscope. The histologic examination is done by a pathologist.

HOXB13 - a homeobox gene located on chromosome 17q21, an area harboring a number of genes involved in breast carcinogenesis.

IL17BR - a gene located at 3p21, a chromosomal region frequently lost in cancer.

Imaging studies - methods used to produce pictures of internal body structures (i.e. x-rays, bone scans, CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound)

Immunohistochemistry (IHC) test - a lab test that uses antibodies to detect specific antigens in biopsy samples. This procedure can be used to help detect and classify cancer cells.

Invasive cancer - cancer that has spread beyond the layer of cells where it first developed to involve adjacent tissues.

Malignant tumor - a mass of cancer cells that may invade surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. See also metastasis.

Metastasis - cancer cells that have spread to one or more sites elsewhere in the body, often by way of the lymph system or bloodstream. Regional metastasis is cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes, tissues, or organs close to the primary site. Distant metastasis is cancer that has spread to organs or tissues that are farther away (such as when prostate cancer spreads to the bones, lungs, or liver).The plural of this word is metastases.

Metastasize - the spread of cancer cells to one or more sites elsewhere in the body, often by way of the lymph system or bloodstream. See also metastasis.

Metastatic - a way to describe cancer that has spread from the primary site (where it started) to other structures or organs, nearby or far away (distant).

MGI (molecular grade index) - a proprietary assay developed by bioTheranostics to measures the relative expression levels of five cell cycle-regulated genes by real-time RT-PCR and combines these values into a single index.

mRNA (Messenger ribonucleic acid) -
an RNA produced by transcription that carries the code for a particular protein from the nuclear DNA to a ribosome in the cytoplasm and acts as a template for the formation of that protein. In mRNA as in DNA, genetic information is encoded in the sequence of nucleotides arranged into codons consisting of three bases each. Each codon encodes for a specific amino acid, except the stop codons that terminate protein synthesis.

Needle biopsy - removal of fluid, cells, or tissue with a needle for examination under a microscope. There are two types: fine needle aspiration (FNA) and core biopsy. FNA uses a thin needle to draw up (aspirate) fluid or small tissue fragments from a cyst or tumor. A core needle biopsy uses a thicker needle to remove a cylindrical sample of tissue from a tumor.

Oncogenes - genes that promote cell growth and multiplication. These genes are normally present in all cells, but oncogenes may undergo changes that activate them, causing cells to grow too quickly and form tumors.

Primary site - initial place of origin of a cancer.

Prognosis - the prospect of survival and recovery from a disease as anticipated from the usual course of that disease or indicated by special features of the case.

Recurrence - the return of cancer after treatment. Local recurrence means that the cancer has come back at the same place as the original cancer. Regional recurrence means that the cancer has come back after treatment in the lymph nodes near the primary site. Distant recurrence is when cancer metastasizes after treatment to distant organs or tissues (such as the lungs, liver, bone marrow, or brain). See also primary site, metastasis, metastasize.

RNA (ribonucleic acid ) - any of various nucleic acids that contain ribose and uracil as structural components and are associated with the control of cellular chemical activities. RNA is transcribed from DNA by enzymes called RNA polymerases and is generally further processed by other enzymes. RNA is central to the synthesis of proteins.

RT-PCR - is a laboratory technique based on the polymerase chain reaction, which is used to amplify and simultaneously quantify a targeted DNA molecule. It enables both detection and quantification (as absolute number of copies or relative amount when normalized to DNA input or additional normalizing genes) of a specific sequence in a DNA sample. The procedure follows the general principle of polymerase chain reaction; its key feature is that the amplified DNA is quantified as it accumulates in the reaction in real time after each amplification cycle.

Tumor markers - substance produced by cancer cells and sometimes normal cells. Some are not very useful for cancer screening because other body tissues not related to a cancer may produce the substance. However tumor markers may be very useful in monitoring for response to treatment when a cancer is diagnosed or for a recurrence. Examples of tumor markers include CA 125 (ovarian cancer), CEA (GI tract cancers), and PSA (prostate cancer).