Cancer Term Glossary

K-ras gene(... jeen)
A gene that may cause cancer when it is mutated (changed). The K-ras gene makes the KRAS protein, which is involved in cell signaling pathways, cell growth, and apoptosis (cell death). Agents that block the activity of the mutated K-ras gene or its protein may stop the growth of cancer. Also called Kras gene.
Kahler disease(KAH-ler dih-ZEEZ)
A type of cancer that begins in plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies). Also called multiple myeloma, myelomatosis, and plasma cell myeloma.
Kaletra(kuh-LEH-truh)
A combination of the drugs ritonavir and lopinavir. It is used to treat infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). It is also being studied in the treatment of some types of cancer. Kaletra blocks the ability of HIV to make copies of itself and may help other anticancer drugs work better or may block the growth of cancer cells. Ritonavir blocks the breakdown of lopinavir. Kaletra is a type of anti-HIV agent and a type of protease inhibitor. Also called lopinavir/ritonavir.
Kaposi sarcoma(kuh-POH-zee sar-KOH-muh)
A type of cancer characterized by the abnormal growth of blood vessels that develop into skin lesions or occur internally.
Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus(kuh-POH-zee sar-KOH-muh-uh-SOH-see-ay-ted HER-peez-VY-rus)
A type of herpesvirus that may cause Kaposi sarcoma (a rare cancer that can cause skin lesions) and a type of lymphoma (cancer that begins in the lymph system), especially in patients who have a weak immune system. Also called HHV8, human herpesvirus 8, and KSHV.
karenitecin
A drug being studied in the treatment of cancer. It is a type of topoisomerase inhibitor. It is related to the anticancer drug camptothecin.
Karnofsky Performance Status
A standard way of measuring the ability of cancer patients to perform ordinary tasks. The Karnofsky Performance scores range from 0 to 100. A higher score means the patient is better able to carry out daily activities. KPS may be used to determine a patient's prognosis, to measure changes in a patient’s ability to function, or to decide if a patient could be included in a clinical trial. Also called KPS.
Kassebaum Kennedy Act(KAH-suh-bawm KEH-nuh-dee ...)
A 1996 U.S. law that allows workers and their families to keep their health insurance when they change or lose their jobs. The law also includes standards for setting up secure electronic health records and to protect the privacy of a person’s health information and to keep it from being misused. Also called Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and HIPAA.
kava kava(KAH-vuh KAH-vuh)
An herb native to islands in the South Pacific. Substances taken from the root have been used in some cultures to relieve stress, anxiety, tension, sleeplessness, and problems of menopause. Kava kava may increase the effect of alcohol and of certain drugs used to treat anxiety and depression. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises users that kava kava may cause severe liver damage. The scientific name is Piper methysticum. Also called intoxicating pepper, rauschpfeffer, tonga, and yangona.
keloid(KEY-loyd)
A thick, irregular scar caused by excessive tissue growth at the site of an incision or wound.
kelp
A type of seaweed. The stem-like parts of this plant have been used in some cultures to treat certain medical problems. It may have immunostimulatory and anticancer effects. The scientific name is Laminaria digitata.
Kemstro(KEM-stroh)
A drug that is used to treat certain types of muscle spasms and is being studied in the treatment of liver cancer. Kemstro relaxes muscles by blocking certain nerve receptors in the spinal cord. It is a type of antispasmodic. Also called baclofen and Lioresal.
Kepivance(KEH-puh-vants)
A form of keratinocyte growth factor (KGF) that is made in the laboratory. KGF stimulates the growth of cells that line the surface of the mouth and intestinal tract. Kepivance is used to prevent and treat oral mucositis (mouth sores) caused by high-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy in leukemia and lymphoma. It is also being studied in the prevention and treatment of oral mucositis and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) in other types of cancer. Kepivance is a type of recombinant human keratinocyte growth factor. Also called palifermin.
Keppra(KEH-pruh)
A drug used to treat seizures (involuntary muscle movements) caused by epilepsy (a group of brain disorders). Keppra is being studied in the treatment of seizures in patients with cancer that has spread to the brain. It is a type of anticonvulsant. Also called levetiracetam.
keratan sulfate
A glycosaminoglycan (a type of polysaccharide) found in cartilage and in the cornea of the eye.
keratinocyte growth factor(keh-RA-tih-noh-site grohth FAK-ter)
A natural substance that stimulates the growth of epithelial cells in the skin and in the lining of the mouth, stomach, and intestines. A form of keratinocyte growth factor made in the laboratory is called recombinant human keratinocyte growth factor. Also called KGF.
keratoacanthoma(KAYR-uh-toh-AK-un-THOH-muh)
A rapidly growing, dome-shaped skin tumor that usually occurs on sun-exposed areas of the body, especially around the head and neck. Keratoacanthoma occurs more often in males. Although in most patients it goes away on its own, in a few patients it comes back. Rarely, it may spread to other parts of the body.
Ketalar(KEH-tuh-lar)
A drug used to cause a loss of feeling and awareness and to induce sleep in patients having surgery. It is also being studied in the treatment of nerve pain caused by chemotherapy. Ketalar blocks pathways to the brain that are involved in sensing pain. It is a type of general anesthetic. Also called ketamine and ketamine hydrochloride.
ketamine(KEH-tuh-meen)
A drug used to cause a loss of feeling and awareness and to induce sleep in patients having surgery. It is also being studied in the treatment of nerve pain caused by chemotherapy. Ketamine blocks pathways to the brain that are involved in sensing pain. It is a type of general anesthetic. Also called Ketalar and ketamine hydrochloride.
ketamine hydrochloride(KEH-tuh-meen HY-droh-KLOR-ide)
A drug used to cause a loss of feeling and awareness and to induce sleep in patients having surgery. It is also being studied in the treatment of nerve pain caused by chemotherapy. Ketamine hydrochloride blocks pathways to the brain that are involved in sensing pain. It is a type of general anesthetic. Also called Ketalar and ketamine.
ketoconazole(kee-ta-KOE-na-zol)
A drug that treats infection caused by a fungus. It is also used as a treatment for prostate cancer because it can block the production of male sex hormones.
ketone(KEE-tone)
A type of chemical substance used in perfumes, paints, solvents, and found in essential oils (scented liquid taken from plants). Ketones are also made by the body when there is not enough insulin.
ketorolac
A drug that belongs to a family of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents. It is being studied in cancer prevention.
keyhole limpet hemocyanin(KEE-hole LIM-pet HEE-moh-SY-uh-nin)
A substance taken from a marine organism that may be linked to a specific antigen to boost the immune response to that antigen. Keyhole limpet hemocyanin is being studied as a way to increase the immune response to cancer vaccines. It is a type of immune modulator. Also called KLH.
KGF
A natural substance that stimulates the growth of epithelial cells in the skin and in the lining of the mouth, stomach, and intestines. A form of KGF made in the laboratory is called recombinant human keratinocyte growth factor. Also called keratinocyte growth factor.
kidney(KID-nee)
One of a pair of organs in the abdomen. Kidneys remove waste from the blood (as urine), produce erythropoietin (a substance that stimulates red blood cell production), and play a role in blood pressure regulation.
kidney cancer(KID-nee KAN-ser)
Cancer that forms in tissues of the kidneys. Kidney cancer includes renal cell carcinoma (cancer that forms in the lining of very small tubes in the kidney that filter the blood and remove waste products) and renal pelvis carcinoma (cancer that forms in the center of the kidney where urine collects). It also includes Wilms tumor, which is a type of kidney cancer that usually develops in children under the age of 5.
kidney failure(KID-nee FAYL-yer)
A condition in which the kidneys stop working and are not able to remove waste and extra water from the blood or keep body chemicals in balance. Acute or severe kidney failure happens suddenly (for example, after an injury) and may be treated and cured. Chronic kidney failure develops over many years, may be caused by conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, and cannot be cured. Chronic kidney failure may lead to total and long-lasting kidney failure, called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). A person in ESRD needs dialysis (the process of cleaning the blood by passing it through a membrane or filter) or a kidney transplant. Also called renal failure.
kidney function test(KID-nee FUNK-shun ...)
A test in which blood or urine samples are checked for the amounts of certain substances released by the kidneys. A higher- or lower-than-normal amount of a substance can be a sign that the kidneys are not working the way they should. Also called renal function test.
killer cell
A white blood cell that attacks tumor cells and body cells that have been invaded by foreign substances.
killer T cell(KIH-ler ... sel)
A type of immune cell that can kill certain cells, including foreign cells, cancer cells, and cells infected with a virus. Killer T cells can be separated from other blood cells, grown in the laboratory, and then given to a patient to kill cancer cells. A killer T cell is a type of white blood cell and a type of lymphocyte. Also called cytotoxic T cell and cytotoxic T lymphocyte.
kilogram
A measure of weight. A kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds.
Kinaret
A substance that is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and is being studied in the treatment of cancer. Kinaret blocks the action of interleukin 1 (IL-1). It is a type of interleukin receptor antagonist. Also called anakinra.
kinase(KY-nays)
A type of enzyme that causes other molecules in the cell to become active. Some kinases work by adding chemicals called phosphates to other molecules, such as sugars or proteins. Kinases are a part of many cell processes. Some cancer treatments target certain kinases that are linked to cancer.
kindred
An extended family.
kit ligand(... LIH-gund)
A substance that causes blood stem cells (cells from which other types of cells develop) to change into different types of blood cells and increases the number and actions of these cells in the blood. Kit ligand is a type of cytokine and a type of growth factor. Also called SCF and stem cell factor.
Klatskin tumor
Cancer that develops in cells that line the bile ducts in the liver, where the right and left ducts meet. It is a type of cholangiocarcinoma.
Klebsiella
A bacterium that frequently causes lung, urinary tract, intestinal, and wound infections.
KLH
A substance taken from a marine organism that may be linked to a specific antigen to boost the immune response to that antigen. KLH is being studied as a way to increase the immune response to cancer vaccines. It is a type of immune modulator. Also called keyhole limpet hemocyanin.
Klinefelter syndrome(KLINE-fel-ter SIN-drome)
A genetic disorder in males caused by having one or more extra X chromosomes. Males with this disorder may have larger than normal breasts, a lack of facial and body hair, a rounded body type, and small testicles. They may learn to speak much later than other children and may have difficulty learning to read and write. Klinefelter syndrome increases the risk of developing extragonadal germ cell tumors and breast cancer.
Korean acupuncture(...AK-yoo-PUNK-cher)
A type of acupuncture based on a form of Oriental medicine in which treatment is based on a person’s constitution. According to this type of medicine, the constitution is the specific way a person’s organs affect health and how he or she looks, thinks, behaves, and responds to treatment. Also called constitutional acupuncture.
KOS-862
A substance being studied in the treatment of cancer. It is a type of mitotic inhibitor and epothilone. Also called epothilone D.
Kostmann disease(KOST-mun dih-ZEEZ)
An inherited disorder in which there is a lower-than-normal number of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell that is important in fighting infections). Infants with the disorder get infections caused by bacteria, and are at an increased risk of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) or myelodysplasia (a bone marrow disorder). Also called congenital neutropenia, genetic infantile agranulocytosis, infantile genetic agranulocytosis, Kostmann neutropenia, and Kostmann syndrome.
Kostmann neutropenia(KOST-mun noo-troh-PEE-nee-uh)
An inherited disorder in which there is a lower-than-normal number of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell that is important in fighting infections). Infants with the disorder get infections caused by bacteria, and are at an increased risk of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) or myelodysplasia (a bone marrow disorder). Also called congenital neutropenia, genetic infantile agranulocytosis, infantile genetic agranulocytosis, Kostmann disease, and Kostmann syndrome.
Kostmann syndrome(KOST-mun SIN-drome)
An inherited disorder in which there is a lower-than-normal number of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell that is important in fighting infections). Infants with the disorder get infections caused by bacteria, and are at an increased risk of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) or myelodysplasia (a bone marrow disorder). Also called congenital neutropenia, genetic infantile agranulocytosis, infantile genetic agranulocytosis, Kostmann disease, and Kostmann neutropenia.
KPS
A standard way of measuring the ability of cancer patients to perform ordinary tasks. The Karnofsky Performance scores range from 0 to 100. A higher score means the patient is better able to carry out daily activities. KPS may be used to determine a patient's prognosis, to measure changes in a patient’s ability to function, or to decide if a patient could be included in a clinical trial. Also called Karnofsky Performance Status.
Kras gene(... jeen)
A gene that may cause cancer when it is mutated (changed). The Kras gene makes the KRAS protein, which is involved in cell signaling pathways, cell growth, and apoptosis (cell death). Agents that block the activity of the mutated Kras gene or its protein may stop the growth of cancer. Also called K-ras gene.
kretek
A cigarette made of a mixture of tobacco and clove.
KRN5500
An anticancer drug that is a type of antitumor antibiotic. It is an anthracycline.
KRN7000
A drug being studied in the treatment of cancer. It is a biological response modifier that is a type of glycosphingolipid or agelasphin.
Krukenberg tumor(KROO-ken-berg TOO-mer)
A tumor in the ovary caused by the spread of stomach cancer.
KSHV
A type of herpesvirus that may cause Kaposi sarcoma (a rare cancer that can cause skin lesions) and a type of lymphoma (cancer that begins in the lymph system), especially in patients who have a weak immune system. Also called HHV8, human herpesvirus 8, and Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus.
KW2189
A semisynthetic anticancer drug that is a type of antitumor antibiotic.
KX2-391
A substance being studied in the treatment of cancer. KX2-391 blocks an enzyme needed for growth of cells and may kill cancer cells. It is a type of Src kinase inhibitor.
Kytril(KY-tril)
A drug used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment. It is a type of serotonin receptor antagonist and a type of antiemetic. Also called granisetron hydrochloride.

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) 300 W. 10th Ave. Columbus, OH 43210 Phone: 1-800-293-5066 | Email: jamesline@osumc.edu