‘Jeopardy!’ Host Says He’ll Fight Pancreatic Cancer

Premier Health Now

Last week Alex Trebek, popular host of the game show “Jeopardy!” for almost 35 years, announced to fans that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In his brief, one-minute announcement on the Jeopardy! stage, an upbeat Trebek told fans he plans to fight the disease, adding, “I have to beat it, because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years.”

Premier Health Now asked oncologist Kelly Miller, MD, with Dayton Physicians Network, to explain the outlook for the 55,000 people diagnosed each year with pancreatic cancer. She explained that stage 4 means the cancer has spread outside the pancreas and involves at least one or more other organs in the body. “This means the cancer is not curable,” she says. Trebek likely will be on some form of treatment for the rest of his life, and offered palliative care, which may extend his life and improve his quality of life, according to Dr. Miller.

Pancreatic cancer often is not diagnosed until it is at stage 4, when chances of survival are extremely low. “We don’t have great screening tests for pancreatic cancer,” Dr. Miller says. Better screening tests would allow the cancer to be found earlier, when the cancer could still be at a curable stage. Such a test is currently the focus of many clinical trials.

Catching pancreatic cancer early generally only happens if someone has a genetic syndrome that shows they may be a candidate for the disease, according to Dr. Miller. In these people, “we can do extensive screening, which may catch the disease at an earlier stage.”