A Few Terms to Know
Adherence: A patient's willingness to follow treatment procedures precisely as advised by the doctor, such as taking medicine at a certain time each day.
Adjuvant treatment: A treatment used in addition to the main treatment for an illness. More specifically, it is therapy given after surgery.
Anemia: Low levels of red blood cells. This can cause symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, fainting, and weakness.
Cancer: A condition that develops when cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control because of damage to DNA.
Carcinoma: A type of cancer that starts in the skin or in tissues that cover internal organs.
Chemotherapy: Drug therapy intended to kill tumor cells or prevent them from growing.
Chromosome: Found in the nucleus of the cell, these structures contain the cell's genes.
Computed tomography (CT) scan: The most common scan your doctor will use to measure the size and number of your tumors.
c-KIT: The name of the gene that contains instructions for manufacturing the "KIT" protein. When referring to the gene itself, doctors use the term "c-KIT." When referring to the protein made by the gene, they say, "KIT."
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA): The substance in every cell that directs the cell's activity, including telling the cell when to divide.
Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): EUS may be used to determine the cause of symptoms such as abdominal pain, to evaluate a growth (tumor), and to diagnose diseases of the digestive tract and lungs.
Gastroenterologist: A doctor who specializes in treating conditions of the stomach and intestines.
Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST): See GIST.
Gastrointestinal tract: Where food is processed for energy and solid waste is removed. It includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, and rectum. Also called GI tract.
Gene: A gene is the basic unit of heredity passed from parent to child. Genes are made of DNA and carry instructions for making proteins.
GIST: A rare type of tumor in the GI tract. The majority of these tumors start in the stomach or small intestine. GIST stands for gastrointestinal stromal tumor.
High-power fields (HPFs): A unit of measure for the area visible under a microscope during maximum magnification.
Imaging: Scans that enable doctors to take pictures of KIT+ GIST tumors and evaluate a patient's response to treatment. Three common types are called CT, MRI, and PET scans.
In vitro: Occurring in an artificial environment outside the body.
Kinase inhibitor: A drug that interferes with cell communication and growth, and which may prevent the growth of tumors.
KIT: A protein that tells cells to grow and divide as needed.
KIT-positive (KIT+) GIST: A cancerous gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) that occurs when a protein called KIT becomes abnormal (or mutated).
Localized: A localized tumor (also called a primary tumor) is one that has not spread from its original location.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: An MRI scan uses radio waves and giant magnets to create detailed scans of the body. These help determine if tumors have spread or returned.
Median follow-up: An evaluation period that occurs after a set amount of time, often in a clinical study. During this time, patient data are gathered and analyzed by study administrators. Median is defined as the middle.
Metastasis: The spread of cancer to a part of the body beyond its original location.
Metastatic: A tumor that has spread to a part of the body beyond its original location.
Mitotic rate: A measure of a tumor's activity using the number of cells that are dividing as seen under a microscope.
Oncologist: A doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The oncologist's role is to explain the diagnosis as well as discuss various treatment options and recommend the best course of treatment.
Overall survival (OS): The number or percentage of patients who are alive over a certain period of time.
Peritoneal cavity: The space within the abdomen that contains the intestines, stomach, and liver. It is bound by thin membranes.
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: This scan is helpful for identifying whether or not tumor cells are alive or dead, regardless of whether the tumor has shrunk.
Prognosis: The likely outcome of treatment for an illness.
Radiation: A form of treatment that destroys cancer cells using a focused beam of atomic particles or electromagnetic waves (such as X-rays).
Radiologist: A physician who uses radiation to diagnose and treat diseases.
Recurrence: The return of cancer after treatment.
Recurrence-free survival (RFS) (also known as disease-free survival): Refers to a number or percentage of patients who are alive without a recurrence (return) of their disease over a certain period of time. Patients who survive without disease recurrence are considered to be recurrence-free survivors.
Recurring: The return of cancer after treatment.
Resection: In the case of GIST, a surgical procedure to remove a tumor (or tumors) and a little bit of healthy tissue around the tumor. A resection may also include the removal of nearby lymph nodes.
Response: A measure of how well a treatment is working.
Sarcoma: A cancer that occurs in the connective tissue of the body, including bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, and blood vessels. Sarcomas may also occur in supportive tissue.
Stroma: The type of cell where GIST begins. Located along the GI tract, these cells are part of the system that signals the body to help move food through the digestive system.
Surgeon: A physician who specializes in performing surgery — in the case of GIST, to remove a tumor.
Tumor: An abnormal growth of tissue in the body.
Unresectable: A tumor that cannot be completely removed by surgery.
X-ray: A 2-dimensional picture of parts of the body taken using small amounts of radiation.