Alex Trebek, Beloved ‘Jeopardy!’ Host, Dies at the Age of 80

The long-running game show host had been battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer since March 2019.

Medically reviewed in January 2021

Updated on November 8, 2020 at 2:00pm EST.

Alex Trebek, the legendary host of the long-running TV game-show, "Jeopardy!" has died. He was 80 years old.

Trebek made his first appearance on “Jeopardy!” in 1984. Over the course of 36 years he won the hearts of millions with his dry wit and soothing tone of voice.

"Jeopardy! is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends," stated a message from the show's Twitter account Sunday. "Thank you, Alex."

The cause of death was not immediately announced. Trebek revealed in March 2019, however, that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

In a video recorded on the Jeopardy set, Trebek said, “I am going to fight this. I am going to keep working and with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.”

The general five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is just 9 percent. One of the reasons it’s so deadly is the fact that it’s often diagnosed late, when the disease is more difficult to treat. Even after surgery, pancreatic cancer often recurs.

By stage 4, the survival rate for pancreatic cancer drops to just 1 percent.

The facts about pancreatic cancer
The pancreas is an elongated pear-shaped organ behind the stomach. One of its jobs is to produce digestive juices that help break down food. Most pancreatic cancers begin in the cells involved in the digestive process.

Pancreatic cancer is not as common as other forms of cancer, but it's the third most deadly form of the disease in the United States.

Trebek had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The disease had already metastasized, or spread to other parts of his body.

At the time he was diagnosed in 2019, Trebek noted he had no symptoms until the disease had already progressed to an advanced stage and spread to other parts of his body.

“We’ve not had the same breakthroughs yet that we’ve seen in treating other cancers,” says medical director of surgical oncology Jill Onesti, MD, at Mercy Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Immunotherapies, especially, have brought progress in treating some cancers, such as lung cancers and melanoma, she says, but have not worked well in pancreatic cancers.

American Cancer Society. “What Is Pancreatic Cancer?” February 2019.
Mayo Clinic. “Pancreatic cancer treatment: Why is it so challenging?”
University of Utah Health “Why is Pancreatic Cancer so Deadly?” March 2019.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Pancreatic Cancer Prognosis.”
American Cancer Society. “Survival Rates for Pancreatic Cancer.” January 2020.

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