This week we learned beloved longtime "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek has stage IV pancreatic cancer, meaning it spread to at least one other organ, generally the liver, lungs or stomach, and that his prognosis is likely grim.

Christy Figlio knows the pain of losing a loved one to this disease and spoke with a doctor about how far we've come in the fight.

“Unfortunately, most of the people who have pancreatic cancer don't get the diagnosis until it's too late,” said Figlio.

Figlio’s father was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in 2017. It started as a stomach pain.

“The stomach ache he had was the first symptom,” said Figlio. “So, that opened my eyes. I went home and Googled everything there is to know about pancreatic cancer that night.”

Figlio’s family thought he had six months to live.

“They started aggressive chemo and we tried a new trial drug that was out on the market, but he only made it for three months. He passed away June 26, 2017,” said Figlio.

Aretha Franklin, the long-reigning "Queen of Soul" who sang with matchless style on such classics as "Think" and her signature song, "Respect," died Thursday at age 76.

Dr. Johanna Bendell is a cancer research expert with Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at TriStar Centennial Medical Center.

“It can spread beyond the area of the pancreas and not show up on CAT scans,” explained Bendell. “It also tends to evade our treatments very well.”

“What we're trying to do is get better at treating the cancer and catching it.”

Bendell said treatments have come a long way in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

“We have new combinations of chemo-therapies that we're using to treat stage IV disease,” explained Bendell. “These new chemotherapy combinations, which have been proven in clinical trials and have been released over the last few years, have increased survival for these patients.”

Bendell adds there are several clinical trials taking place that may unlock higher survival rates.

“Like immunotherapies, where we teach our patient's own immune system to target the cancer. We're also looking at new targeted therapies.”

“Having a father that had the cancer, I'm at a higher risk to get it, so it gives me hope,” said Figlio. “I lost my father, that's very sad and I'll never get him back, but to know that all these people have come together, doctors, celebrities, whoever, and we're seeing people survive, that gives me so much hope.”

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Reporter

Edward Burch joined News4 at a reporter in December 2016. Edward currently covers growth stories in Nashville and Middle Tennessee.

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