Alex Trebek is a national treasure. And with news of his health update — and the candid revelations he shared with it — millions of viewers felt inspired be his perseverance through stage 4 pancreatic cancer. As one twitter user put it:
— Meg. (@megschneidss) February 26, 2020
Although his news was positive — Trebek had an 18% chance of surviving one year after his diagnosis — he was up-front about the challenges he’s faced along the way. “I’d be lying if I said the journey had been an easy one,” he said, “I joked with friends that if the cancer didn’t kill me, the chemo treatments will.”
Massive Attacks of Great Depression
“There were moments of great pain,” he went on, speaking of dark days in a message that has, by now, reverberated globally. “Days when certain bodily functions no longer functioned, and sudden massive attacks of great depression that made me wonder if it really was worth fighting on.”
— Jim Norton (@JimNorton) March 4, 2020
“But I brushed that aside quickly,” Trebek continued. “because that would have been a massive betrayal. A betrayal of my wife and soulmate, Jean, who has given her all to help me survive. It would have been a betrayal of other cancer patients who have looked to me as an inspiration and a cheerleader of sorts of the value of living and hope. And it would certainly have been a betrayal of my faith in God and the millions of prayers that have been said on my behalf.”
“Alex Trebek is an Inspiration”
“Trebek has me crying on the damn treadmill right now,” Dan Bryant, who is also fighting cancer, tweeted. “I said the same words ‘the cancer isn’t killing me, the treatments are’. I appreciate him using his platform to give hope and inspiration to other people who are fighting this same fight.”
“Did I just cry during Alex Trebek’s survival announcement? Yes, yes I did,” another said.
And on February 28th, a student wrote: “Sometimes I wanna skip class but then I remember that alex trebek has cancer and isn’t skipping jeopardy.”
“Alex Trebek is without a doubt a legend and an inspiration,” another wrote. “He’s right. No matter what situation we’re in, if we all take it just one day at a time with a positive attitude, then anything is possible.
Stop and listen to this, Sooner Nation!….Alex Trebek is an inspiration. He’s a real fighter, someone who has faced his challenge with Pancreatic cancer with his faith strong and his attitude positive. https://t.co/1GUHaMUClR
— Sooner Script (@SoonerScript) March 4, 2020
Dr. Anirban Maitra co-leader of the Pancreatic Cancer Moonshot at MD Anderson Cancer Center on the importance of early detection.
The Good News About Pancreatic Cancer
In response to Trebek’s announcement, The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (known as PanCAN) responded that the “Jeopardy!” host’s one-year anniversary is a significant milestone for someone with this diagnosis.
The organization announced new research that found pancreatic cancer patients who receive precision medicine — a treatment tailored to an individual patient and their tumor — live an average of one year longer than those who do not. This is the first study to demonstrate an overall survival benefit from precision medicine in pancreatic cancer patients. Other advances:
- In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a new approval of the targeted therapy Lynparza® (olaparib) for the treatment of germline BRCA-mutated metastatic pancreatic cancer patients – the first pancreatic cancer (adenocarcinoma)-specific approval in more than four years.
- And Congress created a dedicated $6 million pancreatic cancer research program through the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). This is the first time that pancreatic cancer has had a dedicated funding program at the DoD specifically for innovative, high-impact research to accelerate discoveries of new treatments and early detection strategies.
- In January, the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer hit 10% – the first time ever this statistic has been reported in the double digits.
Know Your Tumor To Customize Treatment
Because every pancreatic cancer patient – and every tumor – is unique, PanCAN recommends that all pancreatic cancer patients undergo testing of both their tumor tissue along with blood and saliva to identify individual treatment options for that patient. The organization offers a free Know Your Tumor precision medicine service as well as free, personalized resources on the disease.