Glossary of Cancer Chemotherapy Terms

Adjuvant therapy – a short course of high-dose combination drugs given after radiation or surgery to destroy residual cancer cells.
Biologic response modifiers (BRM’s) - biologic therapies for the treatment of cancer.
Blood brain barrier – a special characteristic of the capillary walls of the brain that prevent potentially harmful substances from moving from the bloodstream to the brain and cerebrospinal fluid.
Cancer chemotherapy - the use of drugs to destroy malignant or cancer cells. The terms antineoplastic, and cytotoxic are interchangeable with the term cancer chemotherapy.
Cell cycle - a series of steps that both normal cells and abnormal cancer cells go through in order to grow and reproduce to form new cells.
Cell cycle time - the amount of time required for a cell to move from one mitosis (cell division) to another mitosis.
Cell kill theory – a theory that proposes that a set percentage of cells are killed with each dose of chemotherapy.
Chemoprotective agents – agents designed to protect against specific toxic effects of chemotherapy.
Combination chemotherapy – the use of two or more cytotoxic drugs proven effective against a specific type of tumor.
Consolidation therapy – chemotherapy continued after induction therapy has produced a remission.
Growth fraction – the percentage of cells actively dividing at a given point in time.
Induction therapy – giving a combination of high-dose drugs to prompt a complete response to therapy.
Maintenance therapy – using single drugs or combinations of drugs at low doses on a long term basis.
Metastasis – the spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to another.
Nadir – the lowest point to which blood cells levels fall after chemotherapy.
Tumor associated antigens – substances on the surface of the tumor cell that are different than normal cells.
Tumor burden – the number of cells present in the tumor.
Vesicant – a cytotoxic drug that can destroy tissues if an intravenous infiltrates.