Today in an interview on “Good Morning America,” beloved “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek announced that he is going back on chemotherapy to treat his pancreatic cancer, and he shared a health update on the “Jeopardy!” YouTube channel.
PanCAN released a statement in response to the news, which was published on NBC News and People online.
In light of Trebek’s health update, in which he mentioned chemotherapy, side effects of treatment, immunotherapy and other related topics, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) shares four key things to know about pancreatic cancer and treatment.
1. What Does It Mean When Patients Need Further Treatment?
Patients undergoing pancreatic cancer treatment are monitored closely by their healthcare team through imaging and other tests, such as CA19-9.
In some cases, patients may respond well to their initial treatment (called first-line). However, it is not uncommon for patients to need additional treatment (second-line, third-line, etc.) in the future.
Advances in pancreatic cancer treatment have made these additional treatments possible, providing more options for patients than ever before.
2. What Is Standard of Care?
Chemotherapy is considered a standard of care therapy for patients with pancreatic cancer. For patients who receive chemotherapy, they may continue on chemotherapy as long as it is effective, and they are not experiencing unmanageable side effects.
For patients seeking additional treatment options, PanCAN advises all pancreatic cancer patients have their tumor molecularly profiled to determine whether there may be specific treatment options that might be right for them based on the biology of their tumor. PanCAN also recommends patients consider clinical trials at diagnosis and during every treatment decision. Treatments could include chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
3. What Is Immunotherapy?
Cancer immunotherapy involves empowering the patient’s immune system to recognize, attack and destroy cancer cells. While immunotherapy has produced remarkable results in some tumor types, like melanoma, the effectiveness of immunotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer has been limited to date.
Immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer is currently being studied in the laboratory and through clinical trials, in combination with other types of treatments.
4. What Are Some Treatment Side Effects?
Trebek shared side effects he has experienced from chemotherapy, including pain, fatigue and nausea. These are common challenges faced by many undergoing pancreatic cancer treatment.
While side effects are common, patients have options when it comes to easing or controlling them through supportive care.
Seeing healthcare professionals who focus on symptom management and supportive care improves outcomes and is critical for patients’ quality of life. PanCAN strongly recommends that symptom management and supportive care should be provided early in a patient’s diagnosis as well as during and after treatment.