Adjuvant chemotherapy – The administration of chemotherapy after surgery or radiation treatment for cancer.  This round of chemotherapy follows on the main treatment to help take care of any remaining malignant cells.

Adjuvant therapy – More general than adjuvant chemotherapy, adjuvant therapy refers to any treatment administered following the main treatment. This might be chemotherapy, but it also might be radiation or hormone therapy, or other treatments.

ADT – Androgen Deprivation Therapy

ALK – Anaplastic lymphoma kinase

Alkylating Agents – Chemotherapy drugs that chemically link to cellular DNA and thereby prevent mitosis.  This stops growths in the body, including malignant tumors.

Anemia – A clinical condition when the patient has insufficient red blood cells to carry oxygen that the body demands.  As a result, the patient feels tired and may have other complications.  Common side effect of chemotherapy drugs.

Angiogenesis – Growth and development of new blood vessels. Happens when an organism grows. Cancerous tumors rely on angiogenesis to grow.

Antibody conjugates – Armed antibodies or empowered antibodies.  Explained here.

Antineoplastic – Inhibiting the development of abnormal tissue growth.  Anti-cancer drugs are antineoplastic.

Anthracyclines – Class of antibiotics derived from bacteria and used to treat cancer.  Used on a wide range of cancers.  More.

Antiemetic – Anti-nausea medicine used to stop vomiting and feeling sick-to-the-stomach, which are common side effects of chemotherapy medicines.

Antifolate –Class of chemotherapy medicines that stop mitosis by inhibiting the action of folic acid in the cellular metabolism.

API – Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient- biologically active moeity of drug.  Not part of any carrier or filler.  In simple drugs, it is a unique chemical compound.  In more complex medicines, it can be a biologic substance or combination of materials.

Biologics Medicines or medicine-like products used to treat disease, including viruses, antibodies, therapeutic proteins, and whole cells.  In contrast to small molecule drugs, biologics are typically large and complex molecules.  They cannot be taken orally because the digestive system would denature them before they are absorbed into the body.  Also called biopharmaceuticals.

Biologics License Application (BLA) – An application to the US Food and Drug Administration to market and sell a new biologic product for human medicine.   Analagous to a NDA for drugs, the BLA is used for vaccines, blood products, cells and tissues, and gene therapy.

Calvert formula – Calculation scheme used to determine optimum dose of carboplatin.

Catheter – Tube inserted into the body. Used to administer chemotherapy.

CCNS – cell-cycle non-specific drugs – chemotherapy drugs that inhibit reproduction of cells in any phase of the cell division cycle.  Contrast with CCS drugs.

CCS – cell-cycle specific drugs – chemotherapy drugs that inhibit reproduction of cells in one phase of the cell division cycle.

Checkpoint Inhibitor – Chemicals that blocks normal proteins on cancer cells or on immune system T cells. These proteins slow that action of the immune system on cancer and by inhibiting them, scientists hope the immune system will be more active against malignant cells. More.

Chemobrain – Also called “chemo fog.” Attention span, thinking, and short-term memory problems during and after cancer treatment. Cancer patients who do not receive chemotherapy also report similar symptoms, so it is not clear that the chemotherapy agents are the cause.

Chemoprevention – Chemoprophylaxis – use of drugs to forestall or prevent disease.  Not used widely against cancer, although some have proposed programs to do so.

Combination chemotherapy – Administration of more than one drug to treat cancer.  Quite common.  Page on combination chemo.

Complete blood cell count (CBC) – Common diagnostic test showing the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a patient’s blood.   The amount of hemoglobin (substance in the blood that carries oxygen) and the hematocrit (the amount of whole blood that is made up of red blood cells) are also measured. A CBC is used to help diagnose and monitor many conditions. Also called blood cell count, complete blood count, and full blood count.

Complete remission – describes cancer in patient who has been treated but now has no symptoms and no trace of cancer in imaging or medical tests.

Consolidation chemotherapy – also called postremission therapy or intensification therapy.  Chemotherapy administered after the cancer has gone into remission.

CTX or CTx – occasionally an abbreviation for chemotherapy.

Curative chemotherapy – Chemotherapy intended to cure or cause significant progress against the cancer, in contrast to adjuvant, neoadjuvant, or palliative chemotherapy.

Cytostatic – adjective describing material that slows or stops the growth of cancer, without necessarily killing cells.  Some of the newer targeted therapies fall in this category.

Cytotoxic – adjective describing material that kills cells or suppresses the growth and multiplication of cells.  Conventional chemotherapy agents are cytotoxic, which is why the side effects are so severe.

Disseminated cancer – Cancer that has metastasized.

Disease Free Survival (DFS) – Length of time patient goes after treatment without indication of cancer returning.

Dose-dense chemotherapy – Treatment regimen consisting of a series of pulses.  each with a high (maximum-tolerated dose),  the time between the pulses is small.

DPI – Drug package insert. Written instructions and cautions included with pharmaceuticals delivered at the retail level, often containing information mandated by a regulatory agency.

Drug-drug interactions – Response (negative or positive) when two drugs together produce a effect neither would produce by itself.  Also refers to situations when one of the drugs is an over-the-counter medicine or an herbal supplement.

Drug indication – A particular use for the drug usually expressed in terms of illness and patient characteristics or history.   FDA labels approve drugs for particular indications.

EGFR – Epidermal growth factor receptor.

First-line chemotherapy – Initial treatment for cancer when chemotherapy is intended to be the prime treatment.  As distinct from adjuvant chemotherapy (after the main treatment of surgery or radiation) and neo-adjuvant chemotherapy (which is intended to increase the efficacy of the main treatment of surgery or radiation).

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) – rate of blood flow through the kidneys – a rough estimate of how fast the kidneys can process blood and remove foreign materials – important in pharmacokinetics.

Genotoxic – Adjective that describes an agent that destroys a cell’s genetic material (DNA, RNA).   Genotoxins are mutagens; they include radiation and chemicals.

Half-life – Time characteristic of how a material decays. In pharmacokinetics, the shorter the half-life, the faster the medicine concentration declines in the body.

Health-related quality of life – Metric used by medical professions in evaluation of  treatment alternatives.  More on quality of life.

Induction chemotherapy – Initial course of chemotherapy, especially if it is planned in advance of radiation treatment.  More.

Infusion – Slow intravenous administration of chemotherapy medication.  Called for in some regimens to prevent too much of a spike in blood concentration of the drug.

Intra-arterial – Administration of drug into a patient’s artery.  Much less common that intravenous injection.

Intracavitary – Administration of drug into a patient’s bodily cavity such as the abdomen.

Intralesional – Injecting the drug directly into the tumor.

Intramuscular – Administration of drug into a patient’s muscle.  Sometimes used in some chemotherapy regimens.

Intrathecal – Administration of drug into a patient’s spinal fluid (cerebrospinal fluid).

Intravenous – Administration of fluids, including chemotherapy, into a patient’s vein.  Often called IV.  Most common method of administering chemotherapy.  More.

Investigational New Drug – A designation by the US Food and Drug Administration for new medicines that have not yet been approved for general use but which the sponsor is seeking data about.  The FDA typically grants a medicine IND status after some animal testing has ruled out gross toxicity, but before clinical trials in humans begin.

IV bolus – A discrete amount of drug solution that is given to a patient at one time.

Maintenance chemotherapy – Low intensity course of chemotherapy given after main treatment course. If the cancer has disappeared, maintenance chemotherapy may be used to prevent recurrence. Other times the cancer is still present but the doctor wants to ease off the heavy chemotherapy for a time period, and he or she switches to a lower dose to avoid losing progress made during the main therapy round.  More.

Mitotic inhibitor – General term for drugs that inhibit mitosis by disrupting microtubules that form in the M-phase of the cell cycle.

Mucositis – Inflammation of mucous membranes.  Mucous membranes are involved in absorption and secretion and line many tracts and structures of the body including the eyes, lungs, and digestive tract from mouth to anus. Mouth sores, oral mucositis, and esophagitis are types of mucositis and common side effects of chemotherapy.

Myelosuppression – Decrease in bone marrow activity and production of white blood cells (leukocytes), red blood cells (erythrocytes), and/or platelets (thrombocytes).

Myeloid Growth Factors – chemicals administered to chemotherapy patients with the intent of stimulating white blood cell formation.  Myelosuppression is a very common side effect of chemotherapy treatment and administration of colony-stimulating factors can help.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy – The counterpart to adjuvant chemotherapy before the main cancer treatment.  The main treatment may be more chemotherapy or radiation or surgery.  For instance, a patient may be given neoadjuvant chemotherapy to shrink a tumor before surgery.  More.

New Drug Applications (NDA) – an application to the US Food and Drug Administration to market and sell a new medicine.  While the NDA is a document package submitted on a particular date, in practice FDA personnel and pharmaceutical companies communicate during the development process, often for several years before the NDA is filed.

New Molecular Entity (NME) – term used by the US Food and Drug Administration for chemicals that have not previously approved as medicines in the US.  Some new drugs are NMEs, and these are often the most valuable new drugs for pharmaceutical companies.

Orphan Drug – A medicine for a disease that does not afflict many people.  The US government has the Orphan Drug Act (ODA) to promote development of drugs for small markets.  The EU has a similar program.

Overall Survival – How long the patient lives after treatment.

Palliative chemotherapy – Palliative procedure in medicine are ones that are not intended to cure a disease or cause remission in a cancer so much as to make the patient more comfortable.

Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) – Device used for long-term chemotherapy regimens, these catheters can stay in the patient’s body for week. A flexible tube goes into an arm vein and up the the superior vena cava in the chest.

Port – A catheter device surgically inserted under the patient’s skin. Makes it easy to administer chemotherapy and may be used if the regimen is expected to involve many incidences of administration.  The exposed surface is typically 2.5 to 4 cm in diameter.

PRO – patient-related outcome.  Refers to paradigm for evaluating medical interventions.

prodrug – substance that may not be an active medicine, but is converted inside the body to a metabolically active drug

Progression-free survival (PFS) – time treated patient experiences without cancer getting worse (by whatever measure is being used to measure worsening.)  A metric often used in trials of treatments.

PPE – Personal protective equipment.  Clothing and other paraphernalia designed to shield workers from hazards.

QALY – Quality-adjusted life year. – an artificial metric used in assessment of medical interventions.    Recognizes that desirable outcomes are a combination of length of life and quality of life.

QOD – Quality of life near death.  The quality of life in a patient’s final weeks.

QOL – Quality of life.  Somewhat amorphous but important measure of subjective experience of patient well-being from the patient perspective.  Increasingly used in evaluation of medical interventions.

Regimen – The entire course of the chemotherapy administration, including schedule, methods of administration, types and dosages of agents, order of agents in the case of combination chemotherapy, and any adjunct medicines given to the patient at the time.

Salvage Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy given to a patient after other treatments (including other chemo regimens) have been tried and failed.  There is no official definition for what counts as salvage chemotherapy, but researchers often use the term.  More.

Second-line chemotherapy – Chemotherapy regimen given when the first-line of treatment (chemo, radiation, and/or surgery) doesn’t work.

Small molecule drugs – Medicines with a molecular weight under 1000 or so, made by chemical synthesis or conventional fermentation.  Contrast to biologics in recent drug development.

Stomatitis – Sores on the lining of the mouth. Oral inflammation and ulcers. Common side effect of chemotherapy.

Synthetic lethality – Death of an organism or cell caused by genetic interaction of two genes induced from outside.  Also occurs from interaction between medicines and genes which “can be used to elucidate the mechanism of action of drugs. This area has recently attracted attention because of the prospect of a new generation of anti-cancer drugs”.

Subcutaneous (SC) – Applied under the skin.

Tachyphylaxis – Tendency of a drug’s effectiveness to decline over time as the body or tumor develops resistance to it.

Therapeutic index (TI) – Number pharmacologists use to estimate the “safety factor” in a drug. It is the ratio of the concentration (in the blood serum) at which the drug is shows activity against the disease. Drugs with low Tis are more apt to result in dangerous overdoses. All other things being equal, the higher the TI, the safer the medicine is.

Topical – Method of administering chemotherapy by placing it on the skin

Vinca Alkaloids – A class of chemotherapy agents derived from the Madagascar Periwinkle – genus Catharanthus.

List of Acronyms

AHFS -American Hospital Formulary Service
ASCO – American Society of Clinical Oncology
ASHP – American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (formerly, American Society
 of Hospital Pharmacy)
CSTD –  Closed system drug-transfer device
FDA – Food and Drug Administration
HIPEC – Heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy
IARC – International Agency for Research on Cancer
NIOSH – National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
OEL – Occupational exposure limit
ONS – Oncology Nursing Society
OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration
USP – United States Pharmacopeial Convention