Inform, Empower, Connect



Being diagnosed with cancer can feel like having to learn a whole new language.  Here you can find definitions for words your doctor is likely to use.

B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z



Adjuvant therapy: – Additional treatment given to reduce the chance of the cancer returning.

Amputation – The removal of a limb or extremity part with surgery.

Antibody – Part of the immune system which recognises things that do not belong in the body and sticks to them including cancer cells.

Antigen – A marker on the surface of a cell that is recognised as ‘foreign’ by the immune system.



Biopsy – A medical procedure that involves removing a small amount of tissue from the body which is then examined under a microscope.

Biomarker – A molecule in the body that can indicate a specific condition or process in the body.


Cancer – A disease where cells divide and grow uncontrollably and can spread to other areas of the body.

Cannula – A flexible tube that is inserted into a vein with a small needle, which can then be used to deliver medication.

Central line – A flexible tube that is inserted into larger veins in the chest. This can stay in place for weeks/months and can be used to give medications and for blood tests.

Central Nervous System – The brain and spinal cord.

Compassionate Use Programme– Drugs that are not currently licensed for osteosarcoma but can be given when no other treatments are working.

Complete Response – When a cancer disappears completely after treatment.


DNA – The molecule that contains the genetic information that makes you the person you are.

Dose Escalation Study – A trial where the dose of a drug is increased until the highest safe dose is found.  


Enzyme – Molecules in the body that speed up chemical reactions.

Exclusion Criteria – A list of features that determine who can’t join a clinical trial.

Expanded access – Drugs that are not currently licensed for osteosarcoma but can be given when no other treatments are working.


Fertility – The ability to have children.

First-line Therapy – The first choice of treatment.


Grade – How quickly cancer cells are growing and dividing.


Immune system – A system in the body that fights infection.

Immunocompromised – A person who is more susceptible to getting an infection. This can be due to a disease or treatment.

Immunosuppressed – A person who is more susceptible to getting an infection. This can be due to a disease or treatment.

Inclusion Criteria – A list of features that determine who can join a clinical trial.

Infusion – A fluid such as a medication given into a vein.

Inhibitor – A drug that blocks or reduces the function of a particular protein.

Inpatient – When a person stays in hospital while receiving treatment.

Intravenous – Medication which is given into a vein.


Local – Cancer that is only located at the site where it first developed.


Maintenance Therapy – Treatment that is given to prevent cancer from either progressing or coming back.

Malignant– Another word to describe cancer cells: cells that grow and divide uncontrollably and can spread to other areas of the body.

Metastasis – Cancer cells have spread from the site where they developed to other parts of the body.

Multidisciplinary Team – A group of medical professionals who meet to plan a person’s treatment.



Neo-Adjuvant Therapy – Treatment given to shrink the tumour before the main treatment (usually surgery).

Neutropenic – Low white blood cell count.



Oncologist – A doctor who specialises in cancer.

Orthopaedic Surgeon – A doctor who specialises in treating bone-related conditions.

Outpatient – When a person receives treatment from a hospital but does not stay overnight.



Paediatric – To do with children.

Paediatrician – Doctors that manage conditions affecting children.

Palliative – Treatments or care designed to help manage the symptoms of a condition but not cure it.

Phase – The different stages of clinical trials that must be done to investigate a new drug. Phase 1 is the first stage while phase 4 is the final stage. Read more about the phases here.

Partial Response – When a tumour gets smaller after treatment but does not completely disappear.

Placebo – An inactive treatment that is given during a clinical trial and compared with the drug of interest to see how effective the drug is. The placebo drug will resemble the active drug so participants in the trial do not know which drug they are receiving, which could affect the results. You will not be given a placebo on its own if you need active treatment for your osteosarcoma.

Platelets – Cells in the blood that help to stop bleeding.

Post-operative – After surgery

Progression Free Survival – Length of time a person lives with cancer but it does not get worse.

Prophylaxis – Treatment given to prevent something from happening.

Prosthetic – A device designed to replace a missing body part.

Protein – Found in cells and needed for the development, growth and function of our bodies.

Pulmonary Metastasis – Cancer cells that have spread to the lungs.



Recurrent – Cancer that is treated but then comes back.

Refractory – Cancer that does not respond to treatment.

Relapse – Cancer that is treated but then comes back.

Remission – When there is no more evidence of cancer in a person’s body.

Resection – The surgical removal of tumours.



Stable Disease – Cancer that is neither going away nor progressing.

Stage – A way to characterize the size and spread of cancer and help to guide treatment.

Study Type – There are different types of trials that are done to answer different types of questions. Read more about the study types here.

Systemic – Affecting the whole body.



Tissue – An organised group of cells that act together to perform a function.

Tumour – A mass of cells that are growing where they shouldn’t be. Tumours can be benign or malignant. Benign tumours do not spread to other parts of the body whereas malignant tumours are cancerous and have the potential to spread.


It’s that connection between the patient and the team and myself and also the interplay between looking after a teenager and their parents and the rest of the family I found really rewarding

Dr Sandra StraussUCL

Join our quarterly newsletter to stay up to date with the latest research, events and resources.