Understanding Study Results

A quick guide to what study results described on this site mean for patients:

Examples of beneficial outcomes associated with cancer remission, control, reduced risk of recurrence and/or extended survival:

  • Increased apoptosis (programmed cell death)
  • Anti-angiogenesis or reduced angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels)
  • Reduced proliferation
  • Reduced metastasis
  • Improved autophagy (cell self-cleansing)
  • Increase in natural killer cells (NK cells) or NK cell activity
  • Longer telomeres
  • Lower levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)

Examples of beneficial outcomes associated with symptom relief and/or improved quality of life:

  • Improved appetite
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Reduced hot flashes
  • Reduced peripheral neuropathy
  • Reduced cortisol levels
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced fatigue

Examples of beneficial outcomes associated with improved treatment effectiveness:

  • Enhanced effectiveness of chemotherapy
  • Favorable gene expression
  • Lower PSAs (prostate cancer)
  • Reversed resistance to chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • Lower levels of insulin-like growth factor

Examples of beneficial outcomes associated with improved health and resilience during treatment or improved response to treatment:

  • Chemoprotection
  • Radioprotection

Examples of harmful or unwanted outcomes:

  • Ileus
  • Increased proliferation
  • Metastasis
  • Negative interactions with treatment
  • Necrosis
  • Sarcopenia

Ablate: remove material from the surface of an object, such as an organ; ablation can be done by scraping, cutting, or heating tissue

Addiction: also known as compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences, is characterized by an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the drug), tolerance and withdrawal

Adenoma: a benign tumor; some adenomas, such as colon adenomatous polyps, can become malignant over time

Adhesions: bands of scar-like tissue that form between two surfaces inside the body and cause them to adhere (stick together)

Adjunct therapy: a therapy connected or added to a main treatment or therapy, not used alone

Analgesic: acting to relieve pain

Androgen deprivation therapy: also known as ADT or androgen suppression therapy, this reduces levels of the male hormones (androgens) in the body to prevent their fueling prostate cancer cell growth and proliferation

Angiogenesis: the development of new blood vessels

Anodyne imagery: a technique of conditioned relaxation, moving into a trance-like state and guided processing of internal imagery, allowing people to confront fear and overcome anxiety during interventional procedures, eliminating the need for intravenous sedation.

Anti-angiogenic: preventing or disrupting the development of new blood vessels (angiogenesis)

Antiemetic: a therapy effective against vomiting and nausea

Apoptosis: programmed cell death, a normal process of all cells in our bodies. Cancer cells can evade this process and live longer than normal. Therapies that promote apoptosis get cancer cells to die their normal death.

Arthralgia: joint pain

Ascites: accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity in the abdomen, causing abdominal swelling

Autogenics: training to self-produce a feeling of warmth and heaviness throughout your body

Autologous: related to cells or tissues obtained from the same individual, autologous stem cell transplant uses uses healthy blood stem cells from your own body, for instance

Autophagy: consumption of the body’s own tissue as a metabolic process occurring in fasting, starvation and certain diseases; cellular self-cleansing

BCCT: Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies (this website)

Biochemical recurrence in prostate cancer is a rise in PSA to 0.2 ng/mL and a confirmatory value of 0.2 ng/mL or greater following radical prostatectomy, or a rise of 2 ng/mL or more above the lowest PSA after radiation therapy

Black box warning: a warning included with drugs that have substantial concerns, particularly ones that may lead to death or serious injury, typically displayed within a box in the prescribing information. These "boxed" or "black box" warnings may be required by the US Food and Drug Administration.

BRAF mutation: a gene mutation which may increase the growth and spread of cancer cells; this mutation may be found in some types of cancer, including melanoma and colorectal cancer

Cachexia (adjective cachectic): weakness and wasting of the body due to severe chronic illness

CAM: complementary and alternative medicine

Cancer-specific mortality: the rate of deaths, with cancer as the underlying cause of death, during a specified time interval

Cardiotoxicity: a condition of damage to the heart muscle; therapies labeled as cardiotoxic can damage the heart or impair its function

Case series: a series of case studies

Case study: a descriptive and exploratory analysis of a person, group or event to explore the causes of underlying principles of observations and outcomes

Chelate: to bind with metals; chelating agents are taken as part of detoxification therapies to bind to metal atoms and draw them out of the body

Chemoprevention or chemopreventive effect: the use of medication to lower the risk or prevent cancer in healthy people

Chemoprotection or chemoprotective effect: protecting healthy tissue from some of the side effects caused by certain anticancer drugs, such as chemotherapy drugs

Chemosensitivity: the susceptibility of tumor cells to the cell-killing effects of anticancer drugs (chemotherapy). Some complementary therapies may increase, decrease or restore chemosensitivity. For this reason, noting and addressing potential therapy interactions during chemotherapy treatment is vital. Some natural products that may reduce chemosensitivity need to be discontinued during chemotherapy, for example.

Contraindication: a symptom, condition or other factor that makes a particular treatment or procedure inadvisable

Crossover experimental design:A study design in which subjects (patients) receive different treatments or no treatment during successive periods of study. The simplest crossover design is the two-period crossover: during the first period, patients receive one of two treatments (treatment A) and during the second period patients receive the other treatment (treatment B). Half the patients receive an AB sequence and the other half a BA sequence.

Cryotherapy: use of freezing or near-freezing temperatures therapeutically; therapy can be local or general (whole-body)

Curated: selected, organized, and presented, typically using professional or expert knowledge

Cytoreductive surgery: surgery that reduces the number of cancer cells. This includes tumor resection and debulking.

Cytotoxicity: having destructive action on certain cells

Disease-free survival: the time during and after successful treatment of a disease during which there are no signs and symptoms of the disease that was treated

Dysbiosis: microbial imbalance or maladaptation on or inside the body

Dysphagia: difficulty swallowing

Dysphoria: generalized unhappiness, restlessness, dissatisfaction, or frustration

Edema: an excess of watery fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body, often marked by swelling

Effect size: the size of the treatment effect; in a research study, this is measured as the difference in outcome between those who receive the experimental treatment and those who don't

Efficacy: the ability to produce a desired or intended result; effectiveness

Enteritis: inflammation of the intestine, especially the small intestine, usually accompanied by diarrhea

Epigenetics: the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. Epigenetic changes are caused by turning genes “on” or “off” or altering their function in other ways, but not through mutations.

Etiology, etiologic: Etiology is the study of causation or origin; etologic factors relate to the causes or origin of disease.

Euphoria: a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness

Events or "cancer events": local/regional recurrence, distant metastasis, new primary cancer, or death from the cancer under investigation

PIK3CA mutations: a change in PIK3CA genes from their natural; mutated genes are found in some cancer types and may respond differently to treatments

Gene amplification: an abnormal increase in the number of copies of a gene sequence; cancer cells may produce multiple copies of genes in response to signals from other cells or their environment

Gleason Score: a grading system used to determine the aggressiveness of prostate cancer, and which can be used to choose appropriate treatment options. The Gleason Score ranges from 1 to 5 and rates how much the cancer from a biopsy looks like healthy tissue (lower score) or abnormal tissue (higher score). Most cancers score a grade of 3 or higher. Since prostate tumors are often made up of cancerous cells that have different grades, two grades are assigned for each patient. A primary grade is given to describe the cells that make up the largest area of the tumor and a secondary grade is given to describe the cells of the next largest area. Thus a Gleason Score may be written as 3+4=7. Typical Gleason Scores range from 6 to 10. The higher the Gleason Score, the more likely that the cancer will grow and spread quickly. See more at Prostate Cancer: Stages and Grades from or Gleason Score from Prostate Conditions Education Council.

Glycemic index (GI) reflects the ability of a food to raise blood sugar, in a value from zero (not at all) to 100 (pure glucose). High-GI foods are digested quickly and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream, while low-GI foods release glucose slowly and steadily into the bloodstream. Examples of the glycemic index of some common foods:1

  • Low GI: green vegetables, most whole fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and bran breakfast cereals
  • Medium GI: sweet corn, bananas, raw pineapple, raisins, oat breakfast cereals, and multigrain, oat bran or rye bread
  • High GI: White rice, white bread and potatoes

Glycolysis: metabolism of sugar and carbohydrates

Grades of toxicity or adverse events (side effects): The National Cancer Institute's Common Toxicity Criteria Manual defines these grades:

0 = No adverse event or within normal limits
1 = Mild adverse event
2 = Moderate adverse event
3 = Severe and undesirable adverse event
4 = Life-threatening or disabling adverse event
5 = Death related to adverse event

Histology: the study of the microscopic structure of tissues

HT: Healing Touch

Hyperinsulinemia: a condition in which excess levels of insulin circulate in the blood relative to the level of glucose

Ideation: the formation of ideas or concepts

Ileus: a painful obstruction of the ileum or other part of the intestine

Immune surveillance: the immune system's monitoring process to detect and destroy cancer cells in the body

Immunomodulation or immune modulation: exerting control or influence on the immune response

Immunosuppression or immune suppression: partial or complete suppression of the immune response

Induration: hardness, such as breast induration following surgery or radiation

Insulin-like growth factor (IGF): High levels of IGF-1 are associated with increased risk of prostate cancer whereas some of IGF’s binding proteins (IGFBP’s) seem to be protective. High intakes of dietary protein, especially animal and soy protein, appear to increase IGF-1.

Interleukin-2: One of a group of related proteins made by leukocytes (white blood cells) and other cells in the body. Interleukin-2 is made by a type of T lymphocyte. It increases the growth and activity of other T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes, and affects the development of the immune system. Aldesleukin (interleukin-2 made in the laboratory) is being used as a biological response modifier to boost the immune system in cancer therapy. Interleukin-2 is a type of cytokine. Also called IL-2.

Ketones: chemicals made in your liver to fuel metabolism; when your body doesn't have enough insulin to get energy from blood sugar,  your liver turns fat into ketones and releases them into your bloodstream to fuel your brain, muscles and other tissues

Leukopenia: a condition of an abnormally low number of white cells in the blood

Lymphedema: swelling caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, most commonly caused by lymph node removal or damage due to cancer treatment

Median survival: the length of time from the start of treatment that half of the patients are still alive

Meta-analysis: a statistical analysis that combines the results of two or more research studies; the results of smaller research studies addressing the same or similar questions can be analyzed as though they are one bigger, more powerful study

Metabolic syndrome: a cluster of conditions that occur together, including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

Metastasis: the development of secondary malignant growths (tumors) at a separate location from a primary site of cancer

Modulate: exert control or influence

Morbidity: a state of being unhealthy due a particular disease or situation

Mortality: death, or the death rate in a population; cancer studies often report all-cause mortality (death from any cause) and cancer-specific mortality (death due to the cancer under investigation)

Mucositis: inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract, usually as an adverse effect of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for cancer

mTOR: mammalian (mechanistic) target of rapamycin; it is an enzyme expressed throughout the body modulates metabolism, cellular survival, gene transcription, and cytoskeletal components

N&V: nausea and vomiting

Natural killer cells (NK cells): a type of lymphocyte (a white blood cell) and a component of the innate immune system. NK cells play a major role in the body’s rejection of tumors.

Necrosis: the death of most or all of the cells in an organ or tissue due to disease, injury, or failure of the blood supply

Neoadjuvant therapy: therapeutic agents before a main treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy before surgery

Neoplasms or neoplasia: a new and abnormal growth of tissue (tumor) in some part of the body, especially as a characteristic of cancer; some neoplasms are benign, while cancer is a malignant neoplasm

Neuroendocrine: involving both the neural and endocrine functions

Neurotoxicity:toxicity from a biological, chemical, or physical agent producing an adverse effect on the structure or function of the central and/or peripheral nervous system.

Nutraceutical: a fortified food, dietary supplement or other food that is regarded to provide health or medical benefits beyond its basic nutritional value

Neutropenia: a condition of an abnormally low number of neutrophils in the blood, leading to increased susceptibility to infection

Observational study: a type of study in which individuals are observed or certain outcomes are measured, but no attempt is made to affect the outcome (for example, no treatment is given)

ONCAs: an acronym for off-label, overlooked and novel cancer approaches, these therapies and other approaches have been developed by scientifically trained investigators operating both inside and outside mainstream cancer organizations; see our ONCAs page for a fuller description

Pathological complete response: the lack of any sign of cancer in biopsy samples taken after cancer treatment is completed

Peripheral neuropathy: damage to the peripheral nerves outside the brain and spinal cord

Physical dependence: a situation in which the body adapts to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect (tolerance) and eliciting drug-specific physical or mental symptoms if drug use is abruptly ceased (withdrawal)

Placebo: a pill, medicine, or procedure—thought to be both harmless and ineffective—prescribed for the psychological benefit to the patient or as a sham treatment in a study to allow a comparison to a therapy of interest.

Pleural effusion: the build-up of excess fluid between the layers of the pleura outside the lungs

Polypharmacy: the simultaneous use of multiple drugs to treat a single ailment or condition

Posttraumatic growth: positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges

Potentiate or potentiation: increasing the power, effect or likelihood of a response or action

Prebiotics: dietary fibers that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut (see also Probiotics and Synbiotics)

Preclinical study: A study testing a drug, a procedure or another medical treatment in animals. The aim of a preclinical study is to collect data in support of the safety of the new treatment. Preclinical studies are required before clinical trials in humans can be started.

Probiotics: living microorganisms (bacteria and some yeasts) that, when consumed in sufficient numbers, can provide health benefits that go beyond basic nutrition, such as supporting gut and immune health and contributing to the maintenance of a balanced gut microbiota. Examples of probiotic foods are yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi. (see also Prebiotics and Synbiotics)

Proctopathy: A complication following radiation therapy of pelvic malignancies; symptomsinclude passing blood, urgency, constipation, a feeling of incomplete defecation, diarrhea and rectal pain

Progression-free survival: the time during and after treatment of a disease that a patient lives without disease progression (worsening)

Proliferation: the growth or production of cells; a rapid and often excessive spread or increase

Protocol: a package of therapies combining and preferably integrating various therapies and products into a cohesive design for care. On this site, various published programs, approaches and protocols are described and referenced under the general term "programs and protocols."

PSA, or prostate-specific antigen: a protein produced by both normal and malignant cells of the prostate gland; the blood level of PSA is often elevated in men with prostate cancer

Psychological dependence: a situation in which a person cannot willfully stop using a drug even though use interferes with many aspects of life.

Radioprevention or radiopreventive effect: the use of radiation to lower the risk or prevent cancer in healthy people

Radioprotection or radioprotective effect: protecting healthy tissue from some of the side effects caused by radiation

Radiosensitivity: the susceptibility of cells, tissues, organs or organisms to the harmful effects of ionizing radiation, such as from radiation therapy (radiotherapy). Some complementary therapies may increase, decrease or restore radiosensitivity (see Are cancer stem cells radioresistant?). For this reason, noting and addressing potential therapy interactions during radiotherapy treatment is vital.

RCT: randomized controlled trial, a study design in which subjects are randomly assigned to either an experimental group or a control group to compare the outcomes from different treatments

Reactive oxygen species: unstable molecules, known as free radicals, containing oxygen that easily react with other molecules in a cell. An accumulation of reactive oxygen species in cells may damage DNA, RNA and other proteins, and may cause cell death.

Relative survival: percentage of people with a specific disease or condition (for us, cancer or a specific type of cancer) who are alive, compared to people without that disease or condition, after a specified time, such as 5-year relative survival; an 80% 5-year cancer relative survival rate means that 80% as many people with cancer are alive after five years as people of the same age without cancer

Rhabdomyolysis: breakdown of muscle tissue that releases a damaging protein into the blood

Sarcopenia: loss of muscle tissue

Self-efficacy: belief in your ability to control your own behavior, emotions, and motivations

SIO: Society for Integrative Oncology, a multidisciplinary professional organization for integrative oncology

Sleep latency: the length of time to transition from full wakefulness to sleep

Stomatitis: inflammation of the mouth

Synbiotics: combining prebiotics and probiotics

Synergistic: increasing the effectiveness of one or more properties of another chemical or process; therapies that are synergistic may show greater benefits than adding the benefits of using each therapy individually. For example, if therapy A reduces an effect by 20 percent, and therapy B reduces that effect by 15 percent, but together they reduce the effect by 70 percent (greater than the 35 percent expected by adding A and B together), this is a synergistic effect.

TCM: traditional Chinese medicine

Telomerase, also called telomere terminal transferase: an enzyme made of protein and RNA subunits that elongates chromosomes by adding telomere sequences to the end of existing chromosomes. Telomerase is found in fetal tissues, adult germ cells, and also tumor cells. Normal body cells do not regularly use telomerase, and so they age. If telomerase is activated in a cell, the cell will continue to grow and divide.

Telomere: a "cap" at the end of each strand of DNA that protects chromosomes; telomeres become shorter with each cell replication, eventually telomeres becoming too short, causing cells to age, stop functioning properly and finally die a normal cell death (apoptosis).

Tolerability: the degree to which overt adverse effects of a drug can be tolerated by a patient

Treatment plan: usually starting with an established protocol (see above), a treatment plan will consider your specific medical condition, your age and fitness, your preferences for treatment and other factors. Your treatment plan may evolve over time as you and your healthcare team assess your response to treatments.

TT: Therapeutic Touch®

Tumor burden or tumor load: refers to the number of cancer cells, the size of a tumor, or the amount of cancer in the body. Also called tumor load.

Umbrella review: a systematic review that considers many treatment comparisons for the management of the same disease or condition. Each comparison is considered separately, and meta-analyses are performed as deemed appropriate. Umbrella reviews are clusters that encompass many reviews. Compared with a systematic review or meta-analysis limited to one treatment comparison or even one outcome, an umbrella review can provide a wider picture on many treatments.

Wild-type gene: a gene in its natural, non-mutated form; mutated genes are found in some cancer types and may respond differently to treatments

Have you found another term or acronym on the BCCT site that we should add to this list? Please use the comment box below to let us know.

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