Because the field of cancer immunology and immunotherapy is rapidly progressing with new concepts and discoveries, so too has its scientific vocabulary.

Here's an easy reference of key terms that briefly explain some of the most commonly used words and techniques in biology and immunology, as well as CRI-related information.




  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: See AIDS.
  • acute: Symptoms or signs that occur quickly. Opposite of chronic. [NCI]
  • adjuvant therapy: Secondary or supplemental treatments given to improve clinical outcomes. Examples include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or immunotherapy. [NCI]
  • adoptive transfer: Type of immunization involving the transfer of “sensitized” cells, serum or other components to patients. In cancer treatment, it’s sometimes called adoptive immunotherapy.
  • advance directive: A living will, do-not-resuscitate order or other legal documents a person prepares “in advance” of illness or hospitalization to indicate the medical treatments they do or not want to receive in they event they become incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions. [NCI]
  • AIDS: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, an immune system disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that makes people more vulnerable to serious infections, cancers and other illnesses. [NCI]
  • angiogenesis: The growth of new blood vessels. In cancer, this process allows cells to develop into tumors. Medical researchers are seeking to develop drugs that can prevent tumor angiogenesis. [NCI]
  • antibody: A protein produced by B cells that attach to antigens, allowing other immune cells to recognize and attack viruses and other “invaders.” The body can develop its own antibodies as part of the immune response. Antibodies also can be made in laboratories to carry defense compounds that target antigens, a process called passive immunization. [AR 2002]
  • antibody therapy: Treatment that uses antibodies to attack cancer cells directly or spur the immune system to kill them. [NCI]
  • antigen: A substance that is recognized by and stimulates the immune system to mount a defense. Antigens are found on bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. [AR 2002]
  • anti-oncogene: A gene that suppresses tumors. [MED]
  • apoptosis: “Programmed cell death,” or the body’s normal process of replacing old, unneeded or abnormal cells. Cancer cells can block apoptosis, which enables them to multiply and spread. [NCI]
  • autoimmunity: A condition in which the body’s immune system targets or attacks its own tissues. [MED]
  • autologousTaken from a person’s own tissues, cells, or DNA. [NCI]


  • B cell: A white blood cell made in the bone marrow that produces antibodies and helps to fight infection. [NCI]
  • B lymphocyte: See B cell.
  • bacteria: Single-cell microorganisms that can cause infection and illness. [NCI]
  • bacterial toxin: A modified toxin taken from bacteria that can kill tumor cells while sparing normal cells. [NCI]
  • basic science: Fundamental biological laboratory research that yields background information that sets the stage for later research and clinical trials. [ACS]
  • benign: Not cancerous. Some tumors can be benign, which means they can grow but do not spread in the body. [NCI]
  • biologic response modifier: A substance like interferon that helps the body’s immune system to mount a defense against cancer. [ACS]
  • biological therapy: Treatment to improve the immune system’s ability to battle cancer, infection or other disease or to reduce the side effects of certain treatments. Also called immunotherapy, biotherapy, biological response modifier therapy, and BRM therapy. [NCI]
  • biomarker: A substance in blood, tissues or body fluids that can indicate the presence of cancer. Examples include CA 125 (ovarian cancer), CA 15-3 (breast cancer), CEA (ovarian, lung, breast, pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract cancers), and PSA (prostate cancer). Also called tumor marker. [NCI] 
  • biopsy: Cell or tissue sample, often removed by thin needle, that is used to detect cancer or other illness. [ACS]
  • biosynthesis: The production of a chemical compound by a living organism. [MED] 
  • biotherapy: See biologic response modifier and biological therapy.
  • bispecific monoclonal antibody: A monoclonal antibody made in a laboratory that contains two different antigens. [NCI]
  • blinded study: A research study in which patients (“single-blinded”) or both patients and their doctors (“double-blinded”) do not know which drug or treatment is being given, which can prevent bias from influencing the results. The opposite of an open label study. [NCI]
  • BRCA1 or BRCA2: Genes that suppress cell growth. Damaged versions of these genes increase a person’s risk of breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer. [NCI]
  • BRM therapy: See biologic response modifer.


  • cancer: A disease of abnormal cell growth. Cancer cells can invade healthy tissues and spread throughout the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic system. There are many different forms of cancer, including carcinomas, sarcomas, leukemias, lymphomas and myelomas. [NCI]
  • cancer immunology: Scientific and medical field that studies the relationship between cancer and the body’s immune system, including ways to use immunotherapies to better prevent, control or treat the disease.
  • cancer immunome: a catalog of known immunogenic tumor antigens [AR 2002]
  • cancer vaccine: A vaccine used to prevent or treat certain cancers by helping the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. [ACS]
  • Cancer Vaccine Collaborative: A program of the Cancer Research Institute in partnership with the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research that builds a network of coordinated early-phase cancer vaccine trials at hospitals and medical centers around the world.
  • carcinogen: A substance that causes cancer. [NCI]
  • carcinogenesis: The process by which normal cells become cancerous. [NCI]  
  • carcinoma: A form of cancer that begins in the skin or the tissues lining or covering internal organs. [NCI]
  • case-control study: A study that compares people with a certain disease or condition (cases) with those who do not have it (controls) to discover which factors may have caused or contributed to the illness or to good health. Also called a retrospective study. [NCI]  
  • CCI: Coordinated Cancer Initiatives, a Cancer Research Institute program that mobilizes scientific experts from various disciplines to work cooperatively on cancer research topics.
  • cellular adoptive immunotherapy. A treatment that helps the immune system to fight cancer, such as collecting, growing and re-infusing a cancer patient’s T cells (a type of white blood cell) to enhance their immune defense.[NCI]
  • chemokineCytokines produced by various cells at inflammation or injury sites that may  help to direct white blood cells to needed areas in the body. [MED] 
  • chemoimmunotherapy: Chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy. Chemotherapy uses different drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells; [NCI]
  • chemotherapy: Drug treatment to destroy cancer cells, often given along with surgery or radiation. [ACS]
  • chromatinA complex of a nucleic acid with basic proteins (as histone) in eukaryotic cells that is usually dispersed in the interphase nucleus and condensed into chromosomes in mitosis and meiosis. [MED] 
  • chromosome: Cell components that carry hundreds or thousands of genes, the basic units of heredity. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, one member of each pair from the mother, the other from the father. [ACS]
  • chronic: A persistent or long-term disease or condition. Opposite of acute. [NCI]
  • clinical: Related to the medical care of patients, including examination and treatment. [NCI]  
  • clinical study/clinical trial: A research study that tests the effectiveness of new medical screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment methods.[NCI] See also blinded study, case-control study, cohort study, controlled clinical trial, diagnostic trial, double-blinded study, nonrandomized clinical trial, uncontrolled study; phase I/II/II/IV trial; and preclinical study.
  • Coordinated Cancer Initiatives: See CCI.
  • CVC: See Cancer Vaccine Collaborative.
  • cohort study: A research study that compares a disease or outcome in groups of people who are similar in many ways but have a different characteristic, such as female nurse smokers vs. female nurse non-smokers. [NCI]
  • complexA group of chromosomes arranged or behaving in a particular way; a chemical association of two or more species (as ions or molecules) joined usually by weak electrostatic bonds rather than by covalent bonds; or the sum of the factors (as symptoms and lesions) characterizing a disease. [MED]
  • controlled clinical trial: A clinical study that includes a comparison or control group that receives a different treatment than other participants, a placebo, or no treatment at all. [NCI]
  • cutaneous: Related to the skin. [NCI]
  • CVC: See Cancer Vaccine Collaborative.
  • cytokine: A substance produced by the immune system or in the laboratory, by recombinant DNA technology, to have an impact on the body’s immune responses. [NCI]
  • cytoplasm: the organized complex of inorganic and organic substances external to the nuclear membrane of a cell and including the cytosol and membrane-bound organelles (as mitochondria or chloroplasts). [MED] 
  • cytosol: The fluid portion of the cytoplasm exclusive of organelles and membranes. [MED]
  • cytotoxic: Something that is toxic to cells. [MED]


  • dendritic cell: Type of white blood cell that captures antigens and processes them into peptides, which are used to chemically “program” T cells to go on search-and-destroy missions. [AR 2002]
  • diagnosis: Using symptoms and signs as well as medical tests to detect cancer or other diseases. [ACS]
  • diagnostic trial: A research study that evaluates diagnostic methods. [NCI]  
  • directive, advance: See advance directive.
  • diversity: The immune system’s ability to develop a specific reaction to any molecule in the universe.
  • DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid, which carries genetic information within cells and passes. [NCI}
  • deoxyribonucleic acid: See DNA.
  • DNR orderA type of advance directive in which a person requests no cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the event their heart or breathing stops. [NCI]
  • double-blinded: A clinical trial in which patients and their clinicians do not which treatment is being given, which can prevent bias from influencing the results. [NCI] 
  • DPA: Durable power of attorney, a document that a person uses to appoint a relative, lawyer or other person to make medical decisions on their behalf in the event they become incapacitated.[NCI]



  • effector cell: An immune system cell that is stimulated to perform a specific defense function. [NCI]  
  • eosinophil: A type of white blood cell. [NCI]
  • epidemiology: A field that collects data about disease in populations to determine what factors contribute to the development of cancer and other illness, including diet, environment and smoking. [ACS]
  • epithelium: a protective membrane tissue that covers a surface or lines a body cavity. [M-W]
  • epitope: a molecular region on the surface of an antigen capable of eliciting an immune response and of combining with the specific antibody produced by such a response. [M-W]


  • fellowship: A university position, or a stipend provided to a “fellow” or university researcher or teacher, for advanced study or research. [M-W]


  • gene: A segment of DNA that contains hereditary information, such as eye color or susceptibility to certain diseases. [ACS]
  • genetic marker: A DNA alteration that may indicate increased risk of illness or disease. [NCI]  
  • genetic testing: The process of searching for genetic alterations in DNA. [NCI]  
  • genome: The total DNA in a single cell that carries all genetic information. [ACS]
  • genomics: The comprehensive study of genes and other genetic components, including DNA mapping and genetic sequencing. [M-W]
  • glioma: A brain cancer that begins in glial cells, which surround and support nerve cells. [NCI]
  • grading: A laboratory process for classifying cancer cells and tumors, including their growth rate and tendency to spread, which helps to guide treatment decisions. [NCI]


  • HBV and HCV: Hepatitis B virus and Hepatitis C virus, which cause hepatitis (liver inflammation) and can play a role in liver cancer. [NCI]
  • helper T cell: Type of white blood cell that helps B cells to make antibodies and also stimulates killer T cells. [NCI]
  • hematological diseases: Diseases of the blood or blood-forming organs. [M-W]
  • hematopoiesis: The formation of new blood cells. [NCI]
  • hepatitis B virus: See HBV.
  • hepatitis C virus: See HCV.
  • HHV8: Human herpesvirus 8, which can cause Kaposi’s sarcoma and a type of lymphoma, especially in people with weakened immune systems. [NCI]
  • HIV: Human immunodeficiency virus, which weakens the immune system and can cause AIDS.
  • homeostasis: The body’s process of adjusting to internal and external changes and regulating blood pressure, hormones and other body systems to maintain balance and proper function. [NCI]
  • homolog: A chemical compound or chromosome that has the same relative position, value, or structure, such as the same or allelic genes with genetic loci usually arranged in the same order, or belonging to or consisting of a chemical series whose successive members have a regular difference in composition especially of one methylene group. [M-W] 
  • HPV: Human papillomavirus, which can cause cells changes, genital warts and other abnormal tissue growth and increase the risk of cervical cancer. [NCI]
  • HTLV-1: Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1, which infects T cells and can cause leukemia and lymphoma. [NCI] 
  • human herpesvirus 8: See HHV8.
  • human immunodeficiency virus: See HIV.
  • human papillomavirus: See HPV.
  • human T-cell leukemia virus type 1: See HTLV-1.
  • humoral: relating to or being the part of immunity or the immune response that involves antibodies secreted by B cells and circulating in bodily fluids. [M-W]



  • immune response: The series of events that occur in the body to defend against “invaders” such as bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells, including the manufacture of antibodies.
  • immune System: The body’s defense system, which consists of the lymph glands, spleen, and white blood cells.
  • immunity: The body’s ability to sense an “invasion” by bacteria, viruses or other agents and then activate an immune response.
  • immunization: The act of creating an immune response that results in resistance to infection or illness. [CRI]
  • immunogenic: An agent that can produce an immune response. [M-W]
  • immuno­globulin: A protein that acts as an antibody. [NCI]
  • immunology: The scientific and medical field that studies the immune system’s ability to fight cancer and other illness. [ACS]
  • immunologist: A scientist or clinician who studies the immune system. [M-W]
  • immunosuppression: A weakened ability of the immune system to defend against illness, due to infections, medications, treatments or other factors. [ACS]
  • immunosurveillance: The immune system’s ability to be on alert against damaged or abnormal cells.
  • immunotherapy: A form of disease prevention and treatment, including antibody therapy, that boosts or enhances the immune system’s natural ability to fight cancer and other illness. [M-W]
  • infection: The invasion and spread of germs, including bacteria, viruses, yeast, or fungi, in the body, which can cause illness. [NCI]
  • interferon: A biological response modifier that interferes with the division of cancer cells and can slow tumor growth, which can be produced by the body or made in the laboratory. [NCI]
  • interleukin: A biological response modifier that can be produced by the body and also made in the laboratory to treat cancer and other disease. [NCI]
  • in situ: Localized and confined to one area, as in an early stage of cancer. [ACS]
  • in vitro: In the laboratory. The opposite of in vivo. [NCI]
  • in vivo: Within the body. The opposite of in vitro. [NCI]


  • killer cell: A white blood cell that attacks and kills “foreign” cells, including tumor cells and cells infected with bacteria or viruses. [NCI]
  • kinase: any of various enzymes that catalyze the transfer of phosphate groups from a high-energy phosphate-containing molecule (as ATP) to a substrate. [M-W]


  • LAK cell: A white blood cell that can be stimulated in a laboratory to kill tumor cells. [NCI]   
  • leukemia: Cancer of the blood or blood-forming organs and tissue, including bone marrow. [ACS]
  • leukocyte: A white blood cell, including lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, macrophages, and mast cells. [NCI]
  • ligand: A type of legal advance directive in which a person outlines treatment guidelines they want to be followed if they become incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions. [NCI]
  • living will: A type of legal advance directive in which a person describes specific treatment guidelines, such as whether to use CPR and respirators, they want to be followed in case they become seriously ill or unable to make medical decisions. [NCI]
  • lymph gland: See lymph node.
  • lymph node: Tissue that filters lymphatic fluid and stores white blood cells. Also called a lymph gland. [NCI]
  • lymphatic system: The bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels throughout the body, which produce, store, and carry white blood cells that fight infections and other diseases. [NCI]
  • lymphocyte: A type of white blood cell that produces antibodies and other components to fight infection and illness, including B and T cells. [NCI]
  • lymphoma: Cancer of the lymphatic system, such as Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. [ACS]



  • macrophage: A type of white blood cell, found in the lymph notes and circulatory system, that kills microorganisms, swallows and cleans up dead or harmful cells, and stimulates other immune system cells. [NCI]
  • malignant: Cells or tumors that are cancerous and able to harm healthy tissue and spread throughout the body. [NCI]
  • marker: A biological indicator of disease or increased disease risk. [NCI]  
  • mast cell: A type of white blood cell. [NCI]
  • meiosis: Cell division in which “daughter” cells receive half of the parent cell’s DNA, as in egg and sperm cell formation. [NCI]
  • melanocyte: A cell in the skin and eyes that produces and contains melanin, a skin pigment. [NCI]
  • melanoma: A form of skin cancer that begins in melanocytes, or pigmented cells. [NCI]
  • memory: The ability of certain immune system cells to “remember” viruses, bacteria, tumor cells, and other “invaders” previously encountered. [NCI]
  • memory cell: A type of white blood cell that remembers the “invader” organisms it has already fought, allowing the immune system to respond faster and more effectively during future encounters. [NCI]
  • metastasis: The process of cancer cells spreading in the bloodstream or lymphatic system from one part of the body to another, which causes tumors to form in other tissues or organs. [ACS]
  • mitosis: The process of somatic cells, in which “daughter” cells receive the same amount of DNA as the parent cell. [NCI]
  • modality: A form of treatment for disease, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy for cancer. {NCI]
  • monoclonal antibody: A laboratory-made protein that can detect and bind to cancer cells and other “invaders,” sometimes being used to carry drugs, radiation or other therapies directly to a tumor. [NCI] See also bispecific monoclonal antibody.
  • monocyte: A type of white blood cell. [NCI]
  • mutagenesis: The process by which mutations develop. [M-W]
  • mutation: Any change in a cell’s DNA, which can occur during cell division or due to environmental factors, that may or may not lead to damage and disease. [ACS]
  • myeloma: Cancer of the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell. [NCI]


  • natural killer cell: A type of white blood cell that can kill tumor or microbial cells. Also called large granular lymphocyte and NK cell. [NCI]
  • necrosis: The death of living tissue. [NCI]
  • neoplasm: A tumor or mass of tissue caused by abnormal cell growth that can be malignant or benign. [NCI]
  • neuron: A nerve cell. [NCI]
  • neutrophil: A type of white blood cell that fights bacterial infection. [ACS]
  • NK cell: See natural killer cell.
  • node-negative: Cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes. [NCI]
  • node-positive: Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes. [NCI]
  • nonrandomized clinical trial: A clinical trial in which participants choose which treatment group they want to be in or are assigned to certain groups by the clinical team. [NCI]


  • oncogene: A gene that controls cell growth, which if damaged can allow cancer to develop. [ACS]
  • oncologist: A doctor who specializes in treating a certain type of cancer or has expertise in a particular treatment area, such as radiation oncology. [NCI]
  • oncology: The field of medicine that studies the diagnosis and  treatment of cancer. [ACS]
  • open-label study: A research study in which both patients and their doctors know which treatments are being given. The opposite of a blinded study. [NCI]


  • p53 gene: A tumor suppressor gene that if damaged can allow cancer to develop. [NCI]
  • pathogen: Something that causes disease, such as a bacterium or virus. [M-W]
  • pathogenesis: The process by which disease develops. [M-W]
  • pathway: The sequence of biochemical reactions the body uses to convert one substance into another. [M-W]
  • peptide: Any compound consisting of two or more amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. [M-W]
  • phagocyte: An immune system cell that kill microorganisms and removes dead cells. [NCI]
  • phagocytosis: The process by which a phagocytes destroy “invaders” and clean up dead cells. [NCI]
  • phase I trial: A clinical trial that is the first step in testing new medical treatments in patients, including studying methods and dosages. [NCI]
  • phase I/II trial: A clinical trial that studies the safety, dosages, and effectiveness of new treatments in patients. [NCI]
  • phase II trial: A clinical trial that tests the effectiveness of new treatments for cancer or other diseases. [NCI]
  • phase II/III trial: A clinical trial that studies patients’ responses to and the effectiveness of new treatments against current standard treatments. [NCI]
  • phase III trial: A clinical trial that compares the results of new treatments with standard treatments, including effectiveness and side effects. Trials typically do not move into phase III unless phase I and II studies have been positive. [NCI]
  • phase IV trial: A large clinical trial that is the final step in evaluating an approved treatment. [NCI]
  • plasmid: An extrachromosomal ring of DNA especially of bacteria that replicates autonomously. [M-W]
  • postdoctoral: Relates to advanced academic or professional work, including fellowships, that a scientist or clinician performs occurs they receive their doctoral degrees. [M-W]
  • power of attorney: See DPA.
  • preclinical study: Animal research that studies the potential benefit of certain drugs, procedures or treatments in humans.[NCI]  
  • predoctoral: Relates to academic studies, including predoctoral fellowships, leading up to the granting of a doctoral degree. [M-W]
  • programmed cell death: See apoptosis.
  • prostate cancer: Cancer that forms in the prostate gland, which is part of the male reproductive system. [NCI]
  • prostate specific antigen: A substance produced by the prostate gland that at higher levels can be a marker for prostate cancer or other prostate problems. Also called PSA. [NCI]
  • protocol: An action plan for a clinical trial that outlines what is being studied, who will participate and what information will be compiled. [NCI]




radiation therapy: The use of high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors, delivered by x-ray equipment or via internal radiation implants. [ACS]

randomized clinical trial: A clinical trial in which participants agree to be randomly assigned to groups that are receiving different treatments whose effectiveness is being studied, a process that allows treatment effectiveness to be evaluated objectively. [NCI] 

receptor: A molecule in or on a cell that binds to a certain substance and causes a specific physiological effect. [NCI]

recombinant substances: DNA, proteins, cells, or organisms that are made from two different genetic sources and being studied as treatments for cancer and other diseases. [NCI]

recurrence: The return of cancer, either in the original site or a new location, after a period of remission. [NCI]  

refractory cancer: Cancer that is resistant to treatment. [NCI]  

regulatory T Cell: As part of the immune response, regulatory T cells specialize in telling B cells when to stop making antibodies. They also instruct T cells to call off an assault at the end of an immune reaction.

remission: The disappearance of some or all cancer signs and symptoms, which does not necessarily mean the disease has been cured. [NCI]

retinoblastoma: Cancer of the retina, light-sensitive tissues in the eyes, which tends to occur in children under age 5. [NCI]

retrospective study: See case-control study.

ribonucleic acid: RNA, which send genetic information from DNA to cell proteins.[ACS]


  • sarcoma: A cancer of the bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue. [NCI]
  • signaling: The transfer of information from one cell to another. [NCI]
  • signal transduction: The process of sending growth signals to the cell nucleus. [ACS]
  • specificity: The immune system’s ability to react to certain antigens or other specific targets.
  • staging: The examination and testing process that determines a cancer’s “stage,” or its location or spread in the body, which is important information when planning treatment. [ACS]
  • stem cells: An immature cell that can develop into different kinds of specialized cells. [ACS]
  • stroma: The spongy framework of red blood cells and other cells. [M-W]
  • symposium: A formal meeting at which academics, researchers, clinicians and other specialists make presentations on a certain subject or related topics. [M-W]
  • synapse: The point at which a nerve signal passes from one nerve cell to another. [M-W] 
  • synovial: Relating to synovial fluid, a lubricating fluid in the body’s joints and certain tissues. [M-W].


  • T cell: white blood cells that seek and fight “invaders,” including cancer cells, including killer T cells. [AR 2002]
  • T lymphocytes: See T cell.
  • telomerase: A DNA component involved in cell division that is active in cancer cells. [NCI]
  • therapy: A treatment or other action designed to manage or cure disease. [ACS]
  • therapy, adjuvant: See adjuvant therapy.
  • thymus: A large lymph gland in the body’s immune system. [M-W]
  • TLR: See Toll-like receptor.
  • TNF: tumor necrosis factor, a protein that white blood cells make when encountering an antigen or infectious agent, which can boost immune system response [NCI]
  • Toll-like receptor: TLR, a class of proteins that play a key role in the innate immune system that recognize structurally conserved molecules derived from microbes (bacteria and viruses) when they have breached physical barriers such as the skin or intestinal tract mucosa. They receive their name from their similarity to the protein coded by the Toll gene identified in Drosophila (the "fruit fly") in 1985 by Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard.
  • toxin: A poison produced by or derived from animals, plants, or bacteria. [NCI]
  • transcription: The process by which cells copy genes. [NCI]
  • transcription factor: A protein that binds to DNA and regulates transcription and gene expression. [M-W]
  • transfer, adoptive: See adoptive transfer.
  • transgenic: The act of incorporating genes from one animal or plant species into another species. [M-W]
  • translation: The formation of a protein molecule at a protein synthesis site from messenger RNA information. [NCI]
  • translocation: The process in which chromosomes “trade places” with each other or part of a chromosome becomes attached to another chromosome, which can lead to leukemia, breast cancer, schizophrenia, muscular dystrophy, and Down syndrome. [NCI]
  • tumor: Abnormal tissue growth that that can be benign or malignant. Also called neoplasm. [NCI]
  • tumor antigen vaccine: A vaccine made of cancer cells or tumor antigens that helps the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. [NCI]
  • tumor immunotherapy: A treatment that stimulates the immune system to fight tumors. [CRI]
  • tumor marker: See biomarker.
  • tumor-specific antigen: A protein or molecule unique or abundant in cancer cells that can be targeted by immunotherapies. [NCI]
  • tumor suppressor gene: A gene that can prevent or control the growth of cancer cells by monitoring cell division and cell death and repairing damaged DNA. [ACS]
  • tumorigenesis: The process by which tumors develop. [M-W]


  • uncontrolled study: A clinical study without a comparison or control group. [NCI] 


  • vaccine: A substance that helps the immune system to respond to harmful microorganisms as well as recognize and destroy tumor cells. [ACS]
  • vaccine therapy: A type of treatment that uses laboratory-created substances to stimulate the immune system to destroy bacteria, viruses or tumors. [NCI]
  • vector: An organism, such as an insect, that delivers a pathogen [M-W]
  • virus: A microorganism that can infect and reproduce in cells to cause disease. [ACS]


  • white blood cells: A blood cell made in the bone marrow that helps to fight infection and disease, including lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, macrophages, and mast cells. [NCI]