LATHAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek says his doctors say he’s in “near remission” of advanced pancreatic cancer. He’s vowing to beat the disease’s low survival rate. Local company AngioDynamics is working toward that same goal.
Despite Trebek’s upbeat update, the overall statistics of surviving pancreatic cancer remain grim. AngioDynamics just got FDA approval for clinical trials of a medical device that could improve the odds of survival.
His diagnosis was a gut punch to the world, but now a flicker of hope with Trebek saying chemotherapy is working, shrinking some of his tumors by more than 50 percent. Still, pancreatic cancer survival rates haven’t improved in 40 years.
AngioDynamics is trying to change that.
“This study gives us the opportunity to make that a very different outcome in the future,” said Elise Tordella, VP of Global Marketing at AngioDynamics.
The “NanoKnife” is manufactured in Glens Falls and isn’t a knife at all.
“So the tumor in pancreatic cancer is usually very closely attached to one of the vessels, and we put the probes in around that tumor and bracket it. That allows us to deliver energy, which is going to break the cells open and slowly kill those cells,” she said.
The device is only approved for those with stage three pancreatic cancer, so Trebek, who has stage 4 would not be eligible for the therapy. But he says his doctors say he’s near remission thanks to chemotherapy.
“That’s looking hopeful for him, but that doesn’t always work, and this gives us the opportunity to either use it in conjunction or alone,” said Tordella.
There are no early stage symptoms, so pancreatic cancer is usually detected late, spreads rapidly and has a poor prognosis. Forty-six thousand people die from pancreatic cancer each year. It’s projected to become the second leading cause of cancer related deaths by 2030.
If anything, Trebek’s fight is putting the disease in the spotlight, which could encourage more research and make the diagnosis less of death sentence.
“And instead they’ll have hope,” said Tordella.