Glossary Of Terms

For your convenience we have compiled a glossary of terms

  • Accelerated Phase is the second phase of chronic myelogenous leukemia during which the number of blast cells is high.
  • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) is a type of leukemia that causes the body to make too many white blood cells (lymphocytes). These lymphocytes cannot fight infection very well. ALL is most prevalent during childhood and early adulthood, but is also found in adults.
  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) is a type of leukemia that causes the body to make a large number of white blood cells (myelocytes). These myelocytes cannot fight infection well. AML occurs more often in adults over the age of 60.
  • Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL) is a kind of acute myeloid leukemia that can cause a life threatening bleeding problem called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). APL is a problem with how blood cells grow at a certain point in their development. They grow in odd shapes and they cannot do what normal blood cells do.
  • Alemtuzumab (Campath®) is a monoclonal antibody that targets a certain antigen which is found on the surface of CLL cells and many T lymphocytes. It is used mainly in patients with CLL that are no longer responding to standard chemotherapy, but it can also be used in an earlier stage of the disease. It is given by injection into a vein. 
  • Alkylating Agent is a type of chemotherapy that is used to kill cancer cells by interfering with cancer cell division. They can cause side effects because they also interfere with cell division in certain healthy tissues where cell division is frequent such as the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Allogeneic bone marrow transplant is a type of transplant where the cells come from another person.
  • All-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA, tretinoin or Vesanoid®) is a form of vitamin A. It is used to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia along with other drugs. It works by causing the immature blood cells to mature so they develop into functional cells that can help alleviate the disease.
  • Anemia occurs when there are too few RBCs in the body. Leukemia or the chemotherapy used to treat it can cause anemia. Symptoms of anemia include shortness of breath, headache, weakness and fatigue.
  • Anthracycline is a kind of chemotherapy drug that interacts directly with DNA in the nucleus of the cells, interfering with cell survival.
  • Arsenic Trioxide (ATO, Trisenox®) is used in patients with relapsed acute promyelocytic leukemia. It is not understood how it works. It causes changes to the cells and fragments the DNA.
  • Autologous Stem Cell Transplant is a treatment that uses the patient’s own stem cells to delay the progression of certain blood cancers. The autologous transplant takes place after the patient achieves a complete response (remission), or a good partial response to induction therapy.
  • Azacitidine (Vidaza) is a medicine that interferes with nucleic acid metabolism. It is used mainly for myelodysplastic syndrome. It has also been used in clinical trials for acute myeloid leukemia where the patient has had more than one relapse.
  • BCR-ABL gene is an abnormal gene found on the Philadelphia chromosome.
  • Bendamustine (Treanda®) is a nitrogen mustard used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia and lymphoma. It belongs to the family of drugs known as alkylating agents.  It is given as an intravenous infusion.
  • Biological therapy is a type of treatment that works with your immune system. This treatment can be given through a vein (IV) in your doctor’s office, clinic or hospital.
  • Binet Staging System is a staging system used outside of the United States for CLL.
  • Blast Cell is an immature cell found in blood marrow that develops into a mature cell.
  • Bone marrow is the sponge like material inside some bones. All blood cells begin in the bone marrow as stem cells.
  • Bone marrow biopsy is the medical procedure that collects solid bone marrow to test for cell abnormalities.
  • Busulfan is a chemotherapy drug that is used for chronic myelogenous leukemia before tyrosine kinase inhibitor treatment became standard treatment. Currently it is mainly used in bone marrow transplantation, especially in chronic myelogenous leukemia where it is used as a conditioning drug.
  • Central Nervous System (CNS) Prophylaxis is used to place appropriate chemotherapy in the fluid that bathes the spinal cord and brain to prevent leukemia from returning to those sites.
  • Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells by either killing them or stopping them from dividing. You can receive chemotherapy by either mouth, through a vein (IV) or in the space around your spinal cord.
  • Chlorambucil (Lukeran®) is a nitrogen mustard alkylating agent used mainly in the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. It can be given orally. It has largely been replaced by fludarabine as a first line treatment in younger patients.
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) is a type of leukemia that causes the body to produce large numbers of white blood cells (lymphocytes), CLL gets worse very slowly. It occurs more frequently in adults over the age of 60.
  • Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) is one of the four major types of leukemia that progresses slowly and causes too many white blood cells to form in the body. CML occurs mainly in adults.
  • Chronic Phase is the first phase of CML in which patients do not usually report symptoms.
  • Cladribine (2-CdA, Leustatin®) is used to treat hairy cell leukemia. It is a synthetic anti-cancer agent that also suppresses the immune system. It interferes with the cell’s ability to process DNA.
  • Clinical trials are research projects that test new medicines and treatments to find out which are better. They may also compare different methods to prevent or diagnose disease.
  • Clofarabine (Clolar) is a purine nucleoside antimetabolite that is used to treat relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It is given as an intravenous infusion. 
  • Complete Remission is the time during which symptoms of the disease are reduced (partial remission) or disappear (complete remission). A remission means that there is no sign of it on scans or when the doctor examines a patient.
  • Consolidation Therapy is added treatment that is given to a cancer patient after the disease is in remission. It usually includes chemotherapy drugs not used during the induction treatment.
  • Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®) is an alkylating agent which stops cancer cells from growing, which leads to cell death. It can be given orally as a pill or intravenously. It is used in the treatment of leukemia, lymphoma and other cancers.
  • Cytarabine (ara-C) is a drug called an antimetabolite which slows or stops the growth of cancer cells by interfering with cell DNA and RNA. It can be given intravenously. It is used in the treatment of several types of leukemias and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • Cytopenia is a medical condition in which blood cells are below normal levels.
  • Dasatinib (Sprycel) is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is approved for the treatment of adults in all phases of chronic myelogenous leukemia with resistance or intolerance to prior therapy that includes Gleevac. It is an oral drug.
  • Daunorubicin (Cerubidine) is a chemotherapy drug in the anthracycline family that inhibits DNA and RNA synthesis by interfering with DNA base pairs. It is most commonly used to treat acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphocytic leukemia. It slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body. It is given by intravenous infusion.
  • Doxorubicin (Adriamycin®) is known as an anthracycline drug. It is used in the treatment of acute leukemias and well as other cancers. It attacks cancer cells by slowing down cell growth. It is given intravenously.
  • Epistaxis is a nosebleed.
  • Etoposide (VP-16) is an anticancer drug that belongs to the drug type topoisomerase inhibitor which causes the strands of DNA to break. This causes errors in DNA synthesis and promotes cell death.  It is sometimes used for conditioning before a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. It is often given in combination with other drugs. It can be given both intravenously and orally.
  • First Line Treatment is the first treatment used against a disease. Other names include induction therapy.
  • Fludarabine (Fludara®) is a purine analog which interferes with DNA synthesis. It is used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia producing a higher response rate than alkylating agents alone. It is used in combination with other drugs. It can be given both orally and intravenously.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the government agency that regulates food, medical devices and drugs.
  • Granulocyte is a type of white blood cell named for its small granules (particles).
  • Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor (GSF) is a growth factor that will stimulate the production of neutrophils and shorten the time for low neutrophil counts in the blood after chemotherapy.
  • Hairy Cell Leukemia (HCL) is sometimes considered a subset of CLL. About 80% of affected people are adult men. HCL is incurable but easily treated.
  • Hematologist is the doctor who treats blood cell diseases.
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells are non-specialized cells that can change into any blood or marrow cell.
  • Hepatosplenomegaly is an enlargement of both the liver and the spleen.
  • Hydroxyurea is a chemotherapy drug that is used for chronic myelogenous leukemia before tyrosine kinase inhibitor treatment became standard.
  • Idarubicin (Idamycin) is an anthracycline drug that inserts itself into the DNA and prevents the DNA from unwinding. It belongs to the family of drugs called antitumor antibiotics. It is used in combination with another drug as a first line treatment of acute myeloid leukemia.
  • Imatinib (Gleevac) is a type of drug called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It is a drug used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia by blocking the activity of tyrosine kinase. It is a targeted chemotherapy drug that attacks proteins that are on some cancer cells. It is taken orally once a day.
  • Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia is an abnormal drop in the number of blood cells involved in forming blood clots. These cells are called platelets.
  • Induction chemotherapy is the initial treatment used to reduce a cancer. It is usually followed by other treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy to get rid of the cancer that remains. It is also called first line therapy, primary therapy or primary treatment.
  • Interferon is a biological therapy commonly used for chronic myelogenous leukemia before tyrosine kinase inhibitor treatment became standard.
  • Intrathecal Chemotherapy is a chemotherapy drug that is given directly into the spinal canal when cancer cells are present in the meninges (lining of the central nervous system).
  • Intravenous (IV) Infusion is giving a liquid solution to a patient by injecting it directly into a vein (usually in the arm).
  • Investigational agent is a drug that is being used in clinical research and has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • L-asparaginase (Elspar) is a drug used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It can be given as an intramuscular (in the muscle), subcutaneous (under the skin) or intravenous injection. Leukemia cells require a large amount of asparagine (an essential amino acid). This drug deprives the leukemic cell of circulating asparagine which leads to cell death.
  • Leukemia is a cancer of the blood forming tissue such as the bone marrow. The bone marrow starts to make a lot of abnormal white blood cells, called leukemia cells. They grow faster than normal cells and they do not stop growing when they are supposed to.
  • Lymphocyte is a type of white blood cell that is responsible for destroying viruses.
  • Lymphocytosis is an abnormal increase in the number of lymphocytes in the blood.
  • MDS (Myelodysplastic syndrome) is a condition where the bone marrow does not produce enough normal blood cells. This can sometimes progress to acute leukemia.
  • Mercaptopurine (6-MP) is an immunosuppressive drug. It is used to treat leukemia. It alters the synthesis and function of RNA and DNA.
  • Minimal Residual Disease is a term used after treatment when leukemia cells can’t be found in the bone marrow using standard tests, but more sensitive tests can still find some cells.
  • Monoclonal Antibodies are highly specific antibodies that can be produced in a laboratory. They can help target the delivery of drugs to cancer cells and can be used to purify cells used for stem cell transplants.
  • Monocytes are a type of white blood cell that destroys germs such as tuberculosis.
  • MPD (Myeloproliferative disease) is a condition where the bone marrow makes too many blood cells. Sometimes this disease moves so slowly that you don’t need treatment and at other times it develops into AML (Acute myelogenous leukemia).
  • Neutropenia is a medical condition in which the neutrophils are below normal levels.
  • Neutrophils (aka granulocytes or polys) destroy most bacteria. It is the main blood cell that combats infections.
  • Nilotinib (Tasigna) is a type of drug called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is approved for the treatment  of chronic phase and accelerated phase Ph positive CML in adults patients who are resistant or intolerant to prior therapy that included Gleevac.
  • Oncologist is the doctor who treats patients who have cancer.
  • Ofatumumab (Arzerra®) is a monoclonal antibody that targets a certain antigen used mainly in patients with CLL that are no longer responding to other treatments such as chemotherapy or alemtuzumab. It is given by injection into a vein.
  • Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin) is a chemotherapy drug that interferes with the synthesis of DNA. It is generally given with fluorouracil and leucovorin in a combination known as FOLFOX for colorectal cancer.
  • Palliative Care is an area of healthcare that focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients. It is appropriate for patients in all disease stages, including those undergoing treatment for curable illnesses and those living with chronic illnesses, as well as patients nearing the end of life.
  • Pentostatin (Nipent®) is a drug which is a purine analog which is a type of antimetabolite. It interferes with the cell’s ability to process DNA. It is used to treat hairy cell leukemia. It is given by intravenous infusion. It can also be used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia in patients who have relapsed.
  • Petechiae are pin sized sites of bleeding in the skin. This type of bleeding results from a very low platelet count.
  • Philadelphia Chromosome is a shorter chromosome 22 formed after parts of chromosome 9 and 22 switch with each other. This abnormality is found in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia and some patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
  • Platelets are the cells that control bleeding. They collect at the site of an injury and form a plug to stop the bleeding.
  • Portacath is a small device used with a central line (catheter) that allows access to a vein. A port is usually placed under the skin of the chest. The nurse puts a needle through the skin into the port to give chemotherapy or take blood samples.
  • Prednisone is a steroid drug that can be used with certain types of cancer. It is used as part of a drug regimen for acute lymphocytic leukemia in combination with other anticancer drugs.
  • Prognostic Factors are differences among patients that affect the response to treatment. These include a patient’s age, white blood cell count, certain gene test results and if the person has had chemotherapy or radiation therapy in the past for another cancer.
  • Purine Analog is a drug that is an antimetabolite which interferes with the normal metabolism of a cell so that it may halt cell growth and cell division. These compounds are used as chemotherapy for cancer.  Some drugs which are purine analogs are mercaptopurine, thioguanine, fludarabine and pentostatin.  If this term is added, then the term her should be blue, with a mouse-over pop-up definition.
  • Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells and keep them from growing.
  • Rai Staging System is a system that divides CLL into 5 categories (0-IV) from early stage to more advanced stages.
  • Red blood cells (RBCs) are the major part of your blood, carry oxygen and carbon dioxide through the body.
  • Recurrence/Relapse is the return of a disease after it has been in remission.
  • Refractory means that the disease has not responded to initial treatment. Refractory disease may be disease that is getting worse or staying the same.
  • Remission means there is no sign of disease and/or a period of time when the disease is not causing any health problems. The terms “complete” and “partial” are sometimes used to modify the term “remission.” Partial remission means the disease is improved by treatment, but there is still some evidence of disease. Long term benefit usually requires a complete remission, especially in acute leukemia.
  • Rituximab (Rituxan®) is the first monoclonal antibody that was used in the successful treatment of lymphoid cancers. It targets certain antigens on the surface of the B lymphocytes. It is most often used with other chemotherapy drugs either as part of the initial treatment or as part of a second line of treatment. It is given by injection in a vein.
  • Splenomegaly is an enlarged spleen.
  • Stem cells are very immature cells. Stem cells are signaled to develop into mature RBCs, WBCs or platelets when they are needed.
  • Stem Cell Transplant is a method of giving chemotherapy and replacing blood forming cells destroyed by treatment. See Allogeneic and Autologous Stem Cell Transplant.
  • Targeted Therapy Drugs is a cancer treatment that stops the activity of cancer cells without affecting normal cells.
  • Thioguanine is a purine analog which causes cell cycle arrest and cell death. It is used to treat acute leukemias, chronic myelogenous leukemia and remissions in acute granulocytic leukemias.
  • Thrombocytopenia is a medical condition in which the number of platelets is below normal levels.
  • Thrombopoietin is a glycoprotein hormone that is produced mainly by the liver and the kidney that regulates the production of platelets by the bone marrow.
  • Tyrosine Kinase is an enzyme that can transfer a protein involved in communication within cells. These protein kinases can become mutated and cause unregulated growth of the cells which is necessary in order to develop cancer. Therefore, inhibitors of protein kinases can be effective cancer treatments. Several protein kinases such as imatinib and nilotinib can be used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia.
  • Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor Therapy (TKI) is a treatment that blocks the ability of tyrosine kinase to develop white blood cells.
  • White blood cells (WBCs) have a role in protecting the body from germs. There are three major types: neutrophils, monocytes and lymphocytes.
  • Vincristine (Oncovin®) is a mitotic inhibitor which affects rapidly dividing cells which include cancer cells. It is given as an intravenous infusion. It is used in combination with other drugs in acute lymphoblastic leukemia in a regimen call Stanford V.

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