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Glossary


A

  • ABCDE rule - Acronym for the general guidelines used to identify an atypical mole or melanoma based on the following features: Asymmetry, irregular Border, multiple or unusual Color, large Diameter, and evidence that the mole is Evolving.
  • Acetaminophen - A generic name of a type of medicine used to relieve pain. Tylenol is a brand name of a product that contains acetaminophen.
  • Acquired Nevi - Moles that appear during childhood or adulthood.
  • Acral Lentiginous Melanoma - Melanoma that typically appears on the palms, soles, or under the nails. It accounts for less than 5 % of all melanomas. It can occur in any ethnicity, but is the most common melanoma in African Americans and Asians.
  • Actinic Keratosis - Small, scaly red patch caused by sun exposure; it is considered a pre-cancer of a non-melanoma type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Adenovirus - A virus that can cause respiratory and eye infections, and that is being investigated as a part of a strategy known as gene therapy. It is used to deliver one of a number of genes that may have a role in treating cancer including melanoma, as well as other diseases.
  • Adjuvant - A substance added to a vaccine to improve the body’s immune response. Used in reference to immunization.
  • Adjuvant Therapy - A treatment whose objective it is to prevent or stop the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Often used after surgical removal of the primary lesion. These can include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, and vaccine therapy.
  • Advanced Melanoma - Melanoma that has moved (metastasized) from its original location, usually to lymph nodes or to other internal organs. When melanoma becomes very advanced, it is no longer capable of being cured by surgery alone.
  • Albinism - The result of having a defect that prevents the body's melanocytes from producing melanin which results in a lack of pigment in the skin, hair, or eyes.
  • Allogeneic Vaccines - Vaccines made from tumor cells taken from individuals other than the patient.
  • Allovection-7 - A gene-based immunotherapy under investigation as a treatment for metastatic melanoma.
  • Alpha Interferon - One of the 3 major species of interferon produced by the body. It has been found to be the most useful in treating forms of cancer, including melanoma, leukemia, and kidney cancer.
  • American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) - A distinguished group of experts responsible for developing and updating guidelines on cancer staging. Member organizations include national health care organizations and major cancer centers around the country, such as the American Cancer Society, the American College of Surgeons, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Amino Acids - The building blocks for proteins.
  • Anemia - Having too few red blood cells in the bloodstream. This results in decreased energy and stamina because of a reduced capacity to carry oxygen to tissues and organs.
  • Anesthetic - A substance that causes loss of feeling or awareness. A local anesthetic causes loss of feeling in a specific part of the body into which the anesthetic has been applied or injected. A general anesthetic puts the person to sleep and is often used for surgical procedures.
  • Angiogenesis - The process by which new blood vessels are produced.
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors - A family of drugs able to prevent the growth of new blood vessels that supply malignant tumors.
  • Antiangiogenesis Therapy - A type of biological therapy that uses angiogenesis inhibitors to prevent or alter the growth of new blood vessels that feed malignant tumors.
  • Antibiotics - Drugs used to kill bacteria.
  • Antibodies - Proteins made by the white blood cells (lymphocytes) that attach to an antigen and may as a result inactivate or destroy it, or allow other parts of the immune system to do so.
  • Antiemetic - A medication to prevent or alleviate nausea and vomiting.
  • Antigen - A substance (such as a protein) that is identified by the immune system as "foreign" and can therefore stimulate white blood cells to produce antibodies and initiate an immune response. The presence of certain antigens can indicate the presence of cancer in the body.
  • Antigen-Presenting Cell (APC) - A specialized type of white blood cell that engulfs antigens and breaks them down into smaller fragments. These fragments are transported to the surface of the APC, where they are linked to special marker proteins and "presented" to a T-cell. This process results in instructing the T-cell to recognize that substance or component.
  • Antisense - A mirror-image segment of DNA that can bind to a specific gene and prevent that gene from being used. This effectively "turns off" that gene.
  • Antisense Drug Therapy - A type of gene therapy in which drugs made of antisense DNA turn off the function of genes found in cancer cells.
  • Apoptotic Bodies - Fragments of cells that have died a natural death; used in tumor cell vaccines.
  • Asymptomatic - Without obvious signs or symptoms of disease.
  • Atypical Moles - Moles whose appearance differs from that of common moles in one or more ways. Atypical moles may be larger than ordinary moles, and may have irregular or indistinct borders, with variations of color within the mole. They usually are flat, but parts may be raised above the skin surface. Also known as Dysplastic Nevi.
  • Augmerosen (G-418) - An intense drug being investigated as a treatment for metastatic melanoma.
  • Autoimmune - Making antibodies against ones' own cells.
  • Autologous Vaccines - Vaccines made from tumor antigens taken from a patient's own cancer cells.
  • AVAX - An autologous whole tumor cell vaccine currently in phase 3 trials for patients with surgically resected high-risk melanoma.