CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -On Friday Jeopardy host Alex Trebek gave a candid interview disclosing that not only is he still in Stage IV of pancreatic cancer, but that his numbers which track the severity of the cancer are 50% than when originally diagnosed.
Trebek went through one round of chemotherapy and his pancreatic protein numbers were going down, which was a good sign.
Since Trebek’s chemo treatment he’s been on immunotherapy, which is a combination of drugs to try and boost a body’s immune system, but the cancer protein numbers have reversed.
“Then all of a sudden, it blew up and went 50% higher than when it was first diagnosed. Go figure,” Trebek said in an interview with CTV News.
Trebek said he will go back to chemo and face it head on, but also understands there is no cure for pancreatic cancer.
"I’m not afraid of dying,” Trebeck told CTV News. “I’ve lived a good life, a full life, and I’m nearing the end of that life. If it happens, why should I be afraid of that?”
Although Dr. Jordan Winter, Chief of Surgical Oncology at University Hospitals in Cleveland, is not treating Trebek he has extensive knowledge of pancreatic cancer.
“Stage IV pancreatic cancer has a five year survival of 2-3%, according to the most recent national data,” Winter said. “The average survival is 6-12 months.”
According to Winter, treatment for patients like Trebek aims to control the cancer and rarely, if ever, cure it.
The fact that Trebek’s protein numbers have now increased is one of three scenarios Winter described after a round of chemo and then immunotherapy.
“This is a protein released by the pancreatic cancer, and increases when the cancer is growing, and drops when it is shrinking," Winters said. “With modern therapies, one-third of the time, the test increases while on treatment, one-third of the time it stays the same, and one-third of the time it decreases for a period of time until the cancer outsmarts the treatment.”
There are trials all over the country trying to come up with combinations of treatments and immunotherapy but Winter said there are none for pancreatic that have been effective.
“There are numerous trials trying to find the right combination of immunotherapies and other agents to try to turn the immune system on in pancreatic cancer. University Hospitals is currently running trials in this space, and this is often the destination for patients like Alex Trebek who have failed conventional chemotherapy.”