By Sara Bondell - September 18, 2019
“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek is preparing to go undergo another round of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer.
In an interview with Good Morning America, the 79-year-old said he had an unexpected setback after initially responding well to his first round of treatment in May.
“I was doing so well and my numbers went down to the equivalent of a normal human being who does not have pancreatic cancer, so we were all very optimistic,” said Trebek. “And they said good, we’re going to stop chemo, we’ll start you on immunotherapy.”
However, the new course of treatment didn’t go well, and Trebek says he lost 12 pounds in a week and his blood work showed elevated cancer markers.
“If someone has tumor progression or recurrent disease, tumor growth, loss of appetite or weight loss, symptoms we can see, that’s not a good sign,” said Moffitt Cancer Center gastrointestinal oncologist Dr. Dae Won Kim.
While it is not clear which immunotherapy treatment Trebek was on, Kim says there aren’t a lot of options and only about 1% of pancreatic cancer patients who have a specific gene mutation respond well.
Kim says it’s standard to begin another round of chemotherapy if a current treatment isn’t working, and in some cases, patients would be placed on a different chemotherapy regimen.
“In the first two months, you will usually see a response,” said Kim. “But in half of patients you will see enlargement of the tumor or recurrence in disease in about four to six months.”
While the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is only 5% to 7%, Trebek says he is expecting good results again. Kim says although rare, it is possible. “I do have a few patients diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer more than five years ago.”