LOS ANGELES (WPRI/AP) — “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek says his doctors say he’s in “near remission” of advanced pancreatic cancer and his response to the treatment is “kind of mind-boggling.”
The 78-year-old TV personality tells People magazine he’s responding very well to chemotherapy and the doctors have told him “they hadn’t seen this kind of positive results in their memory.”Trebek says some of the tumors have shrunk by more than 50%.
Trebek announced his diagnosis in March, but said he intended to keep working. He said he planned to beat the disease’s low survival rate with the love and support of family and friends and with prayers from viewers.
The American Cancer Society estimates 3% of patients with stage 4 pancreatic cancer are alive 5 years after being diagnosed.
“I know he’s going through some hard times just like all cancer patients, but he really is a beacon of hope for many people who are going through the same thing,” Robert Dulski, of the American Cancer Society, said.
Trebek says he still has several more rounds of treatment to hopefully get into full remission. Dulski said those rounds of chemo are especially important.
“Unfortunately, cancer does find ways to other areas of the body,” Dulski said. “So keeping a close eye on that, having access to great care like he does is going to be a care factor to make sure he remains in remission.”
The American Cancer Society estimates 170 Rhode Islanders will die of pancreatic cancer this year. That’s where the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) steps in to offer support.
“They want to fight for survivors. They want early detection, a better survival rate, better treatment options,” PanCAN volunteer Amy Vincenzi said.
Vincenzi said her motivation to get involved with PanCAN was her father, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012.
“It was almost surreal because you wanted to have hope and you hear of other cancers that have so much more of a survival rate, and he was given less than a 5 percent chance to make six months,”Vincenzi said.
Vincenzi’s father died after 27 months of treatment, passing away in 2014. His memory is now her reason to fight for cancer patients and survivors.
“So while it’s positive to hear about Alex’s situation, and it brings so much hope, there’s also the downside because there’s so much loss,” Vincenzi said. “There’s not early detection and there aren’t many treatment options available.”
In 2006, the National Institutes of Health did a study in Massachusetts that found increased insurance coverage could help improve equity in pancreatic cancer treatment. The American Cancer Society said it’s important to note that Trebek has access to great doctors and treatment, while not everyone who is diagnosed does.