glossary

# A 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

This cancer definition glossary is adapted from the National Cancer Institute online glossary.


V

vaccinated
Treated with a vaccine.

vaccination
Treatment with a vaccine.

vaccine
A substance or group of substances meant to cause the immune system to respond to a tumor or to microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses. A vaccine can help the body recognize and destroy cancer cells or microorganisms.

vaccine adjuvant
A substance added to a vaccine to improve the immune response so that less vaccine is needed.

vaccine therapy (vak-SEEN THAYR-uh-pee)
A type of treatment that uses a substance or group of substances to stimulate the immune system to destroy a tumor or infectious microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses.

vaccinia CEA vaccine (vak-SIN-ee-uh …. vak-SEEN)
A vaccine made by putting the gene for carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) into the vaccinia virus. The vaccinia virus is related to the virus used to make the smallpox vaccine. CEA is a tumor marker. The vaccinia CEA vaccine may help the immune system recognize and kill cancer cells that make CEA.

vaccinia-TRICOM vaccine (vak-SIH-nee-uh…vak-SEEN)
A cancer vaccine made with a form of a vaccinia virus that does not cause disease in humans. It is being studied in the treatment of some types of cancer. The virus is changed in the laboratory to make human proteins that may help immune cells in the body kill tumor cells. Also called recombinant vaccinia-TRICOM vaccine and rV-TRICOM.

vacuum aspiration (VAK-yoom as-per-AY-shun)
A surgical procedure in which the cervix is dilated (opened) and vacuum is used to remove tissue from the uterus. Also called suction aspiration or suction evacuation.

vagina (vuh-JY-nuh)
The muscular canal extending from the uterus to the exterior of the body. Also called birth canal.

vaginal (VA-jih-nul)
Having to do with the vagina (the birth canal).

vaginal cancer (VA-jih-nul KAN-ser)
Cancer that forms in the tissues of the vagina (birth canal). The vagina leads from the cervix (the opening of the uterus) to the outside of the body. The most common type of vaginal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which starts in the thin, flat cells lining the vagina. Another type of vaginal cancer is adenocarcinoma, cancer that begins in glandular cells in the lining of the vagina.

vaginectomy (va-jih-NEK-toh-mee)
Surgery to remove part or all of the vagina (the birth canal).

valacyclovir
A substance that is being studied in the prevention of fungal, bacterial, and viral infections in patients undergoing donor stem cell transplantation with cells that are infected with cytomegalovirus. It belongs to the family of drugs called antivirals.

valdecoxib
A substance that is being studied as a treatment for pain and other side effects of cancer therapy. It belongs to the family of drugs called COX-2 inhibitors.

valerian
A plant whose roots are used as a sedative and to treat certain medical conditions. It is being studied as a way to improve sleep in cancer patients undergoing treatment. Also called garden valerian, Indian valerian, Pacific valerian, Mexican valerian, garden heliotrope, Valeriana officinalis, and Valerianae radix.

Valeriana officinalis
A plant whose roots are used as a sedative and to treat certain medical conditions. It is being studied as a way to improve sleep in cancer patients undergoing treatment. Also called garden valerian, Indian valerian, Pacific valerian, Mexican valerian, garden heliotrope, valerian, and Valerianae radix.

Valerianae radix
A plant whose roots are used as a sedative and to treat certain medical conditions. It is being studied as a way to improve sleep in cancer patients undergoing treatment. Also called valerian, garden valerian, Indian valerian, Pacific valerian, Mexican valerian, garden heliotrope, and Valeriana officinalis.

valganciclovir
An antiviral agent that is being studied as a treatment for AIDS-related cytomegalovirus. It is changed in the body to ganciclovir.

Valium (VAL-ee-um)
A drug used to treat mild to moderate anxiety and tension and to relax muscles. It is a type of benzodiazepine. Also called diazepam.

valproic acid (val-PROH-ik A-sid)
A drug used to treat epileptic seizures and bipolar disorder and to prevent migraine headaches. It is also being studied in the treatment of Kaposi sarcoma. It is a type of anticonvulsant, antimaniacal, and migraine headache prophylactic.

valrubicin (val-ROO-bih-SIN)
A drug used to treat bladder cancer that does not respond to BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guerin). It is an anthracycline and is a type of antitumor antibiotic. Also called AD 32.

vancomycin
An antibiotic drug used to fight resistant bacterial infections.

vandetanib (van-DEH-tuh-nib)
A substance being studied in the treatment of lung cancer and other types of cancer. It may block the growth and spread of tumor cells and prevent the growth of new blood vessels needed for tumors to grow. Vandetanib is a type of tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Also called Zactima.

vapreotide
A substance that is being studied in the treatment of cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called somatostatin analogs.

varenicline tartrate (var-eh-NIH-kleen TAR-trayt)
A drug used to help people stop smoking by acting the same way nicotine acts in the brain. It is a type of nicotine receptor partial agonist. Also called Chantix.

varicose vein
A condition in which a vein, most often in the legs, becomes permanently enlarged, twisted, and painful. This may be caused by valves in the vein that don’t work properly or by weakness in the vein walls.

VAS
Visual analog scale. A tool used to help a person rate the intensity of certain sensations and feelings, such as pain. The visual analog scale for pain is a straight line with one end meaning no pain and the other end meaning the worst pain imaginable. A patient marks a point on the line that matches the amount of pain he or she feels. It may be used to help choose the right dose of pain medicine. Also called visual analog scale.

vas deferens (VAS DEH-feh-RENZ)
A coiled tube that carries the sperm out of the testes.

vascular endothelial growth factor (VAS-kyoo-ler EN-doh-THEE-lee-ul grothe FAK-ter)
VEGF. A substance made by cells that stimulates new blood vessel formation. Also called VEGF.

vascular endothelial growth factor-antisense oligonucleotide (VAS-kyoo-ler EN-doh-THEE-lee-ul grohth FAK-ter AN-tee-sents AH-lih-goh-NOO-klee-oh-TIDE)
A substance being studied in the treatment of Kaposi sarcoma. It is a type of antisense oligonucleotide. Also called VEGF-AS.

vascular endothelial growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor (VAS-kyoo-ler EN-doh-THEE-lee-ul grohth FAK-ter rih-SEP-ter TY-ruh-seen KY-nayz in-HIH-bih-ter)
VEGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor. A substance that blocks an enzyme needed to form blood vessels. Also called VEGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor.

vasectomy (va-SEK-toh-mee)
An operation to cut or tie off the two tubes that carry sperm out of the testicles.

vasomotor
Affecting the narrowing and widening of the blood vessels.

vatalanib
A substance that is being studied in the treatment of cancer. It belongs to the families of drugs called protein tyrosine kinase inhibitors and VEGF receptor kinase inhibitors. Also called PTK787/ZK 222584.

VB4-845
A substance being studied in the treatment of certain types of head and neck cancer. VB4-845 is made by linking a monoclonal antibody fragment to a toxic protein that may kill cancer cells. It binds to EpCAM (a protein on the surface of epithelial cells and some types of cancer cells). Also called anti-EpCAM-Pseudomonas-exotoxin fusion protein and Proxinium.

Vectibix (VEK-tih-bix)
A human monoclonal antibody that is being used to treat colorectal cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. It is used in patients whose disease has not gotten better during or after treatment with other anticancer drugs. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. Monoclonal antibodies are made in the laboratory and can locate and bind to cancer cells. Vectibix binds to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and may block tumor cell growth. Also called panitumumab and ABX-EGF.

VEGF
Vascular endothelial growth factor. A substance made by cells that stimulates new blood vessel formation. Also called vascular endothelial growth factor.

VEGF Trap
A substance that blocks the action of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and prevents the growth of new blood vessels into a tumor. It belongs to the family of drugs called angiogenesis inhibitors.

VEGF-AS
A substance being studied in the treatment of Kaposi sarcoma. It is a type of antisense oligonucleotide. Also called vascular endothelial growth factor-antisense oligonucleotide.

VEGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor (VEGFR TY-ruh-seen KY-nayz in-HIH-bih-ter)
Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor. A substance that blocks an enzyme needed to form blood vessels. Also called vascular endothelial growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor.

vein (vayn)
A blood vessel that carries blood to the heart from tissues and organs in the body.

velafermin (vel-uh-FER-min)
A substance that is being studied in the prevention and treatment of oral mucositis (sores in the mouth) in patients receiving high-dose chemotherapy. Velafermin belongs to the family of drugs called recombinant human fibroblast growth factors (rhFGF).

Velcade (VEL-kayd)
A drug used to treat multiple myeloma that has gotten worse during treatment with other anticancer drugs. It is also used to treat mantle cell lymphoma in patients who have already received at least one other type of treatment. Velcade is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. It is a type of proteasome inhibitor and dipeptidyl boronic acid. Also called bortezomib and PS-341.

venipuncture
The puncture of a vein with a needle for the purpose of drawing blood. Also called phlebotomy.

venlafaxine
An antidepressant drug that is being evaluated for the treatment of hot flashes in women who have breast cancer.

venography (veh-NAH-gruh-fee)
A procedure in which an x-ray of the veins is taken after a special dye is injected into the bone marrow or veins.

venous sampling (VEE-nus...)
A procedure in which a sample of blood is taken from a certain vein and checked for specific substances released by nearby organs and tissues. A higher than normal amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that makes it.

ventilator
In medicine, a machine used to help a patient breathe. Also called respirator.

ventricle (VEN-trih-kul)
A fluid-filled cavity in the heart or brain.

Versed (ver-SED)
A drug used to treat anxiety and tension and to relax muscles. It is also being studied in the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by some cancer treatments. It is a type of benzodiazepine. Also called midazolam and midazolam hydrochloride.

vertebral column
The bones, muscles, tendons, and other tissues that reach from the base of the skull to the tailbone. The vertebral column encloses the spinal cord and the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. Also called spine, backbone, and spinal column.

Vesanoid
An oral preparation of tretinoin that is used to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia, usually together with other drugs. It is being studied in the treatment and prevention of other types of cancer. Tretinoin is a form of vitamin A.

VHL syndrome
A rare inherited disorder in which blood vessels grow abnormally in the eyes, brain, spinal cord, adrenal glands, or other parts of the body. People with VHL syndrome have a higher risk of developing some types of cancer. Also called von Hippel-Lindau syndrome.

Viagra
A drug used to treat erectile dysfunction. Viagra relaxes the smooth muscle of the penis to allow increased blood flow and erection. It is a type of phosphodiesterase inhibitor. Also called sildenafil.

Vidaza (Vih-DAY-zuh)
A drug that is used to treat myelodysplastic syndromes and is being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called antimetabolites. Also called azacitidine and Mylosar.

video-assisted resection
Surgery that is aided by the use of a video camera that projects and enlarges the image on a television screen. Also called video-assisted surgery.

video-assisted surgery
Surgery that is aided by the use of a video camera that projects and enlarges the image on a television screen. Also called video-assisted resection.

villous adenoma (VIH-lus A-deh-NOH-muh)
A type of polyp that grows in the colon and other places in the gastrointestinal tract and sometimes in other parts of the body. These adenomas may become malignant (cancerous).

villus
A tiny hair-like projection, often on the surface of mucous membranes. The plural is villi.

vinblastine
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of plant drugs called vinca alkaloids. It is a mitotic inhibitor.

vinca alkaloid
A type of drug that blocks cell growth by stopping mitosis (cell division). Vinca alkaloids interfere with microtubules (cellular structures that help move chromosomes during mitosis). They are used to treat cancer. A vinca alkaloid is a type of mitotic inhibitor and antimicrotubule agent.

vincristine
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of plant drugs called vinca alkaloids.

vindesine
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of plant drugs called vinca alkaloids.

vinflunine (VIN-floo-neen)
A substance being studied in the treatment of bladder cancer, lung cancer, and other types of cancer. Also called Javlor.

vinorelbine
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of plant drugs called vinca alkaloids.

vinyl chloride (VINE-uhl KLOR-ide)
A substance used to make plastics. Exposure to vinyl chloride may increase the risk of developing liver, brain, and lung cancers; lymphoma; and leukemia.

Vioxx (VY-ox)
A drug that was being used for pain relief and was being studied for its ability to prevent cancer and to block the growth of new blood vessels to solid tumors. It belongs to the family of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Vioxx was taken off the market in the U.S. because of safety concerns. Also called rofecoxib.

viral
Having to do with a virus.

viral therapy (VY-rul THAYR-uh-pee)
Treatment using a virus that has been changed in the laboratory to find and destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells. It is a type of targeted therapy. Also called virotherapy and oncolytic virotherapy.

viral vector
A type of virus used in cancer therapy. The virus is changed in the laboratory and cannot cause disease. Viral vectors produce tumor antigens (proteins found on a tumor cell) and can stimulate an antitumor immune response in the body. Viral vectors may also be used to carry genes that can change cancer cells back to normal cells.

virotherapy (VY-roh-THAYR-uh-pee)
Treatment using a virus that has been changed in the laboratory to find and destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells. It is a type of targeted therapy. Also called oncolytic virotherapy and viral therapy.

virtual colonoscopy (...KOH-luh-NOS-koh-pee)
A method under study to examine the colon by taking a series of x-rays (called a CT scan) and using a high-powered computer to reconstruct 2-D and 3-D pictures of the interior surfaces of the colon from these x-rays. The pictures can be saved, manipulated to better viewing angles, and reviewed after the procedure, even years later. Also called computed tomography colography.

virulence
The ability of a microorganism to cause damage to its host.

virulent
Refers to the ability of a virus or a bacterium to cause damage to its host.

Virulizin
A substance that activates some types of immune system cells, and is being studied as a treatment for cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called biological therapy agents.

virus (VY-rus)
A microorganism that can infect cells and cause disease.

virus replication cycle (VY-rus reh-plih-KAY-shun...)
The reproduction cycle of viruses. A replication cycle begins with the infection of a host cell and ends with the release of mature progeny virus particles.

virus-neutralizing antibody (VY-rus-NOO-truh-lize-ing AN-tih-BAH-dee)
An antibody that binds to a virus and interferes with its ability to infect a cell.

viscera
The soft internal organs of the body, including the lungs, the heart, and the organs of the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems.

visceral
Having to do with the viscera, which are the soft internal organs of the body, including the lungs, the heart, and the organs of the digestive, excretory, reproductive, and circulatory systems.

visceral peritoneum (VIH-suh-rul PAYR-ih-toh-NEE-um)
The layers of tissue that cover the outer surface of most organs in the abdomen, including the intestines.

viscotoxin (VIS-koh-TOK-sin)
A member of a group of small proteins produced by mistletoe plants that are able to kill cells and may stimulate the immune system.

visilizumab
A monoclonal antibody that binds to CD3 (a substance found on T-cells) and that is being studied as a treatment for graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). It belongs to the family of drugs called monoclonal antibodies.

visual analog scale (VIH-zhoo-ul A-nuh-log skayl)
VAS. A tool used to help a person rate the intensity of certain sensations and feelings, such as pain. The visual analog scale for pain is a straight line with one end meaning no pain and the other end meaning the worst pain imaginable. A patient marks a point on the line that matches the amount of pain he or she feels. It may be used to help choose the right dose of pain medicine. Also called VAS.

visual pathway glioma (...glee-OH-muh)
A rare, slow-growing tumor of the eye.

vital
Necessary to maintain life. Breathing is a vital function.

vitamin
A key nutrient that the body needs in small amounts to grow and stay strong. Examples are vitamins A, C, and E.

vitamin A (VY-tuh-min…)
A family of nutrients needed by the body for vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. Vitamin A also helps the immune system protect the body against many types of infections. Foods with vitamin A include animal foods, such as liver, whole eggs and milk, and plant foods such as carrots, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Vitamin A is being studied in the prevention and treatment of some types of cancer.

vitamin A acid (VY-tuh-min...A-sid)
A form of vitamin A that is made by the body, and can also be made in the laboratory. It is used to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia, usually together with other drugs, and to treat acne. It is being studied in the treatment and prevention of other types of cancer. Also called all-trans retinoic acid, ATRA, retinoic acid, and tretinoin.

vitamin B12
A vitamin that is needed to make red blood cells and DNA (the genetic material in cells) and to keep nerve cells healthy. It is found in eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk, and milk products. Vitamin B12, along with folate, may be given to help reduce side effects in cancer patients being treated with drugs called antimetabolites. Also called cobalamin.

vitamin B6 (VY-tuh-min…)
A key nutrient that the body needs to break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in food for healthy blood, skin, and nerves. It is found in many foods, including meats, bananas, legumes, eggs, and whole-grains. Vitamin B6 is being studied in the prevention of hand-foot syndrome (a disorder sometimes caused by certain anticancer drugs). Hand-foot syndrome is marked by pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, or redness of the hands or feet. Also called pyridoxine.

vitamin C (VY-tuh-min…)
A key nutrient that the body needs to fight infection, heal wounds, and keep tissues healthy, including the blood vessels, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bones, muscle, skin, teeth, and gums. It is an antioxidant that helps prevent tissue damage caused by free radicals. The body does not make or store vitamin C, so it must be taken in every day. It is found in many fruits and vegetables, especially green peppers, citrus, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, leafy greens, potatoes, and cantaloupe. Also called ascorbic acid.

vitamin D
A nutrient that helps the body use calcium and phosphorus and make strong bones and teeth. It is found in fatty fish, eggs, and dairy products. The skin can also make vitamin D when exposed to sunshine. Not getting enough vitamin D can cause a bone disease called rickets. Vitamin D is being studied in the prevention and treatment of some types of cancer. Also called cholecalciferol.

vitamin E
A substance used in cancer prevention. It belongs to the family of drugs called tocopherols.

vitamin K
A substance that promotes the clotting of blood.

vitamin Q10
A substance found in most tissues in the body, and in many foods. It can also be made in the laboratory. It is used by the body to produce energy for cells, and as an antioxidant. It is being studied in the treatment of cancer and in the relief of side effects caused by some cancer treatments. Also called coenzyme Q10, Q10, CoQ10, and ubiquinone.

Vivitrol (VIH-vih-trol)
A drug that blocks the action of opiates (drugs used to treat pain). It may be used in the treatment of intravenous opiate addiction or alcohol dependence. Vivitrol is also being studied in the treatment of breast cancer. It may block the effects of the hormone estrogen, which causes some breast cancer cells to grow, or block the blood flow to tumors. It is a type of opiate antagonist. Also called naltrexone, naltrexone hydrochloride, and ReVia.

VNP20009
A genetically modified Salmonella bacterium that is injected into the tumor. It is being studied for its ability to shrink solid tumors.

VNP40101M
A substance that is being studied as a treatment for cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called alkylating agents.

vocal cord (VOH-kul kord)
One of two small bands of muscle within the larynx that vibrates to produce the voice.

voice box
The area of the throat containing the vocal cords and used for breathing, swallowing, and talking. Also called larynx.

volociximab (voh-loh-SIK-sih-mab)
A monoclonal antibody that is being studied in the treatment of some types of cancer. Monoclonal antibodies are made in the laboratory and can locate and bind to cancer cells. Volociximab binds to a protein that is found on cells that line some tumor blood vessels. It belongs to the family of drugs called angiogenesis inhibitors. Also called M200.

vomit
To eject some or all of the contents of the stomach through the mouth.

von Hippel-Lindau syndrome
A rare inherited disorder in which blood vessels grow abnormally in the eyes, brain, spinal cord, adrenal glands, or other parts of the body. People with von Hippel-Lindau syndrome have a higher risk of developing some types of cancer. Also called VHL syndrome.

voriconazole
A drug that treats infections caused by fungi.

vorinostat (vor-IN-oh-stat)
A drug that is used to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma that does not get better, gets worse, or comes back during or after treatment with other drugs. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. Vorinostat belongs to the family of drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors. Also called suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid, SAHA, and Zolinza.

vorozole
A hormone therapy drug used to decrease the production of estrogen.

vulva
The external female genital organs, including the clitoris, vaginal lips, and the opening to the vagina.

vulvar cancer
Cancer of the vulva (the external female genital organs, including the clitoris, vaginal lips, and the opening to the vagina).

VX 853
A drug being studied to make cancer cells less resistant to the effects of chemotherapy.

VX-710
A drug being studied to make cancer cells less resistant to the effects of chemotherapy.

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cholangiocarcinoma, or bile-duct (bile duct) cancer, arises from the tissues in the bile duct.