NEW ORLEANS — Like you, we were stunned by the news that “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek is in a fight for his life against an insidious form of cancer.
Pancreatic cancer isn't something you'll hear about at big fundraisers and telethons. It is a silent killer, often growing in secret until it is too late. Singer Aretha Franklin, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs, actor Patrick Swayze, and New Orleans' own Charles Neville are just some of the many well-known people who lost their lives to pancreatic cancer.
"Now, normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I'm going to fight this and I'm going to keep working," Trebek said in a taped statement.
Louisiana has a high rate of pancreatic cancer, but it's also on the front line of the fight for a treatment.
"We're pushing the survival rate. There's no doubt about it, through clinical research and other breakthroughs, but this is still a very terminal cancer. One of the problems with pancreatic cancer is it's often discovered late in the game," explained Ochsner Oncologist Dr. Marc Matrana.
Director of the Ochsner Precision Cancer Therapies Program, Dr. Matrana says pancreatic cancer is so deadly because there are only a few warning signs after the cancer has spread, such as abdominal and back pain, weight loss and maybe jaundice, meaning by the time it's caught, it's often too late to treat.
And Louisiana has one of the highest rates of the cancer, according to the LSU Health Louisiana Tumor Registry. Dr. Matrana says that's due to smoking, obesity, poor diet and family history.
But there is good news, Ochsner is the only site for a new clinical trial for stage 4 pancreatic cancer for patients who are out of options.
"We're the only site in the world right now enrolling patients in that trial, and we're actually pairing together chemo therapy, immunotherapy and a brand-new drug," Dr. Matrana said.
And that's why so many come out to raise research funds every fall at the Purple Stride Walk, even longtime survivors.
"Help me keep the faith and we'll win. We'll get it done," Trebek said in closing.
And he hopes to join the longtime survivor ranks one day.
The doctor says people with a mutation in the BRCA 2 gene, associated with breast cancer, can also be at higher risk for pancreatic cancer.
Ochsner has four clinical trials for pancreatic cancer. To learn more, click here, or call 1-888-995-7405.