'This is how we’re going to change outcomes': Trebek's chemotherapy success gives hope to pancreatic cancer patients

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Alex Trebek has revealed he is in “near remission” just months after publicly revealing he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

In an exclusive interview with People, the 78-year-old “Jeopardy” host says that chemotherapy has been successful in treating his cancer.

“It’s kind of mind-boggling,” Trebek said. “The doctors said they hadn’t seen this kind of positive result in their memory...some of the tumours have already shrunk by more than 50 per cent.”

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Due to its location within the body, pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect at an early stage. In most cases, it often goes undiagnosed until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the liver, lungs or bones. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 3 per cent of people diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer survive five years after their initial diagnosis.

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Although the reaction online to Trebek’s news has been overwhelmingly positive, not many details regarding the specifics of his diagnosis and treatment plan have been shared with the public. Given the grim statistics of pancreatic cancer, many have speculated as to the reason behind Trebek’s success when some experts have stated that the median life expectancy for someone from diagnosis to death is five months.

Is Trebek’s prognosis simply due to his wealth and celebrity status? Not so, says Julie Fleshman, CEO and president of Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), an organization committed to raising funds and awareness for pancreatic cancer.

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“Every patient is different and every patient responds differently to treatment,” Fleshman told Yahoo Canada. “I can tell you that over the last decade there have been many newer chemotherapy combinations for pancreatic cancer that seem to show better effectiveness.”

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Fleshman specifically notes the advancements in molecular profiling to allow the tailoring of treatment based on the unique characteristics of a patient’s tumour such as mutations and proteins.

Molecular profiling is something that PanCAN encourages all patients to receive and we can help patients find places where they can access that test,” Fleshman said, adding that the more information a patient has regarding their cancer, the better equipped physicians are in providing an effective treatment plan.

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Advancements in pancreatic cancer treatment, Fleshman explained, are a direct result of the increased awareness and funding given to the disease, which Trebek provides in spades. PanCAN has noticed a significant increase in traffic and donations following Trebek’s cancer announcement in March of this year.

(Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

“I lost my father to pancreatic cancer - that’s why I do this work. I’m so grateful for Alex and what he’s done. This is how we’re going to change outcomes,” she said. “We need people talking about this and we need people to understand that more research dollars are needed to invest in this disease. We need people to know that there is hope and that there are options for patients. We need people to volunteer and raise funds for organizations like PanCAN.”

“Alex will continue to share his story in the way that he wants to share it,” Fleshman added. “But he will help us to raise awareness, and he’ll help ensure that people have the resources to make their decisions.”

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