Alex Trebek has big cancer setback and resumes chemotherapy

"Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek is back on chemo after a setback in his fight against pancreatic cancer.
(Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Alex Trebek has had an unexpected setback in his pancreatic cancer treatment that will require him to undergo another round of chemo, the “Jeopardy” host said in an interview that aired Tuesday.

“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,” the 79-year-old host told “Good Morning America.” “And they said good, we’re going to stop chemo, we’ll start you on immunotherapy.”

It didn’t go well, though.

“I lost about 12 pounds in a week and my numbers went sky high. Much higher than they were when I was first diagnosed,” he said, a little more than a week after the 36th season of “Jeopardy” hit the air. “So my doctors have decided that I have to undergo chemo again.”


Back in May, Trebek quoted doctors as saying his tumor was shrinking at a “mind-boggling” pace. While he didn’t give a timeline for his most recent health developments, Trebek had announced in late August that he was done with chemo, so this has happened since then.

“Hey, they [chemo treatments] worked very well the first time!” the host joked in a separate video posted to the “Jeopardy!” YouTube channel. “So we’re expecting good results again.”

“It is not unusual for pancreatic cancer patients to initially respond well and then to require further treatment,” the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network said in a statement Tuesday commending Trebek on his openness about treatment. “Most patients will continue on chemotherapy as long as it is effective.”

Trebek, who announced in March that he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, told “GMA” that the disease and its treatment affect him in unexpected ways.

“Occasionally it will cause excruciating pain in my lower back,” he said. “Other times it’s fatigue. Other times it’s nausea. Cancer is mysterious in more ways than one.”

And Trebek also sounded sanguine about the possibility of his own death.

“One line that I have used with our staff in recent weeks and months is when I do pass on, one thing they will not say at my funeral is, ‘He was taken from us too soon,’” he told “GMA.” “Hey, guys, I’m 79 years old. I’ve had one hell of a good life, and I’ve enjoyed it. And the thought of passing on doesn’t frighten me. It doesn’t.


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April 18, 2019

“Other things do — the effect it will have on my loved ones, yes, that bothers me. It makes me sad. But the thought of myself moving on? Hey, folks, it comes with the territory.”

Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers, with only 9% of patients still alive five years after diagnosis.