Longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, who in March 2019 revealed that he had been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, has no plans to stop treatment altogether if his current immunotherapy protocol fails to work.
Unlike chemotherapy, which causes the death of cancer cells outright, immunotherapy works by boosting the body’s natural defenses.
In a statement released on the quiz show’s social media channels, the 80-year-old Trebek wrote that were he to stop showing signs of improvement, he would resume chemotherapy. “My current numbers are very good, but we will have to be patient with this new immunotherapy program that I am on,” he wrote. “But, if it were to stop being successful, I would return to my previous chemo treatment—NOT stop all treatment.”
The statement comes days after a passage in Trebek’s new autobiography, The Answer Is...Reflections on My Life, inspired articles in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and other media outlets. The text in question implied that Trebek, who has hosted Jeopardy! since 1984, had decided to cease medical treatment if his tumor continued to grow.
“I’m going to stick with this current protocol, then that’s it,” he wrote in the book, which was published last week. “If it doesn’t work, I’ll probably stop treatment. Quality of life was an important consideration.”
He added that he’d already talked the matter over with his wife of 30 years, Jean Currivan, and their two children and that he would surrender his hosting duties as soon as he felt incapable of adequately fulfilling them.
“That quote from the book was written BEFORE my current regimen, and I was going through some bad times,” he explained in the statement.
Trebek has openly discussed the physical and psychological struggles that accompany cancer treatment, sharing that he experiences fatigue, severe pain, crying jags and suicidal ideation. In The Answer Is...Reflections on My Life,” Trebek admitted that he sometimes has second thoughts about having gone public with his diagnosis, writing that “it comes with a lot of pressure.” But in an interview with NPR, he expressed gratitude to his many fans for their support.
“The outpouring from our viewers after I revealed my diagnosis...that caught me by surprise and that humbled me a great deal,” he said.
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