FRIDAY, Aug. 30, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Long-time “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek has finished chemotherapy — aimed at beating back pancreatic cancer — and is returning to host the popular game show.
In video footage that showed Trebek taping a new “Jeopardy!” episode, he said, “I’ve gone through a lot of chemotherapy and thankfully that is now over,” NBC News reported Thursday.
“I’m on the mend and that’s all I can hope for right now,” he said. The first episode of the 36th season of “Jeopardy!” will air on Sept. 9
Trebek, who turned 79 on July 22, first announced his diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March.
Two months later, he and his doctors announced that he appeared to be winning his battle against the disease. He responded incredibly well to treatments and was in “near remission,” his doctors said in May.
“It’s kind of mind-boggling,” Trebek told People at the time. Even though the overall survival rate for pancreatic cancer is just 9 percent, Trebek responded well to chemotherapy.
“The doctors said they hadn’t seen this kind of positive result in their memory — some of the tumors have already shrunk by more than 50 percent,” he told the magazine.
None of this means the beloved game show host is certain to beat the disease, and he went through several more rounds of chemotherapy.
That hurdle behind him, footage of the new show’s taping showed Trebek sharing banter with the studio audience. When one audience member asked who might play him in a biopic, Trebek shot back, “Betty White,” the 97-year-old star of The Golden Girls.
He was also shown sharing birthday cake with his crew and the audience.
Trebek credits the warmth and support of fans with his inroads against the cancer.
“I’ve got a couple million people out there who have expressed their good thoughts, their positive energy directed towards me and their prayers,” he told People in May. “I told the doctors, this has to be more than just the chemo, and they agreed it could very well be an important part of this.”
“Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working,” he said at the time. “And with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.”
Because it is so often symptomless until it reaches an advanced stage, pancreatic cancer has a high fatality rate. According to the American Cancer Society, about 57,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease in 2019, and the illness is expected to claim nearly 46,000 lives.
As well, pancreatic tumors are particularly aggressive “due to a mutational profile that makes it resistant to therapies that work better for other tumor types,” explained Dr. Angela Alistar. She directs gastrointestinal medical oncology at Morristown Medical Center, in Morristown, N.J.
Born in 1940 in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, Trebek initially was a TV journalist before hosting a Canadian quiz show, “Reach for the Top.” That led to being hired to host U.S. game shows such as NBC’s “The Wizard of Odds” in 1973 and “The $128,000 Question,” before moving to “Jeopardy!” a decade later.
He’s been a spokesperson for charities such as World Vision and Smile Train, and has entertained troops on numerous USO tours.
Trebek married twice — to Elaine Callei in 1974 (the marriage lasted seven years) and then to Jean Currivan in 1990, with whom he had two children, Emily and Matthew.