Jeopardy host Alex Trebek partners with AZ, Celgene-backed pancreatic cancer group on awareness push

Alex Trebek is part of a new awareness effort with a pancreatic cancer group whose sponsors include Celgene and AZ. (WPCC)(World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition)

TV game show host Alex Trebek is known for his stoicism and bemused retorts, but more recently for his forthright reveal of his pancreatic cancer diagnosis. The Jeopardy star has now teamed with the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition (WPCC) to raise awareness of the symptoms and risk factors associated with the disease. November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

In a public service announcement, Trebek says, “I wish I had known sooner that the persistent stomach pain I experienced prior to my diagnosis was a symptom of pancreatic cancer.”

He goes on to list other common symptoms including mid-back pain, unexplained weight loss, new onset diabetes and yellowing of the skin or eyes. Trebek also asks viewers to wear purple this month and spread the word about pancreatic cancer on social media.

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Jeopardy will air the ad during its show on World Pancreatic Day, which is Nov. 21. Along with the monthlong Trebek PSA, the campaign includes digital promotions as well as specific event-day promotions on Nov. 21, such as encouraging cities to light up famous monuments in purple, the designated color representing the cause. This year that includes the Chicago skyline, with others also in the works, Julie Fleshman, the WPCC chair, said. Last year, Australia light up the Sydney Opera House.

“This is a really challenging and hard disease and nobody is going to be able to solve it on their own. So the fact that this community is so collaborative and willing to come together and share best practices and raise visibility is important in showing patients and researchers working around the world that we’re here for them. It’s a collective movement to change outcomes for patients,” she said.

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Celgene and AstraZeneca are among the sponsors of WPCC; both are working on pancreatic cancer treatments. AZ and Merck’s shared PARP inhibitor Lynparza was awarded an orphan drug designation last year for pancreatic cancer, and the pair shared positive results at ASCO this year for patients with germline BRCA-mutated pancreatic cancer.