Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on September 20, 2019

From a treatment update from Alex Trebek to possible cancer concerns over a popular heartburn medication, here’s what is making headlines in the cancer space this week.

Legendary journalist Cokie Roberts has died. She passed away following complications from breast cancer. Roberts received a diagnosis in 2002 and recently had health issues that required treatment, she revealed over the summer.

Roberts was born Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs, but got the name “Cokie” from her older brother, who couldn't pronounce Corinne.

She many awards, including three Emmys. Roberts was also inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and was cited by the American Women in Radio and Television as one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting.

“We will miss Cokie beyond measure, both for her contributions and for her love and kindness,” her family said in a statement.

Alex Trebek will undergo another round of chemotherapy to fight his stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The “Jeopardy!” host revealed the news on Tuesday saying that he lost about 12 pounds and his numbers “went sky high.” Rather than beginning an immunotherapy treatment, his health care team advised more chemotherapy.

In May, Trebek announced that his tumors shrunk by more than 50% and was “near remission.”

Dr. Diane Simeone, director of the Pancreatic Cancer Center at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, weighed in on his latest news. “As a clinician who oversees the care of many individuals like Mr. Trebek, recurrence following what was considered successful treatment is, unfortunately, all too common,” she said in a statement to CURE®. “The more advanced a cancer is — in Mr. Trebek’s case, Stage 4 — the harder it is to keep it in check. Extending chemotherapy, as earlier reported, is an acceptable course of treatment. But it is often undertaken to manage symptoms and curtail further spread. Because pancreatic cancer is often undetectable and asymptomatic until it is at an advanced stage, I continue to strongly advocate for germline testing and early detection programs, especially for those most at risk for pancreatic cancer, such as individuals with a family history of the disease.”

Rod Stewart revealed a secret battle with prostate cancer. He broke the news during a fundraising event for the Prostate Project and European Tour Foundation in England.

“Two years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. No one knows this, but I thought this was about time I told everybody. I’m in the clear, now, simply because I caught it early. I have so many tests,” Stewart told the crowd.

The 74-year-old received a diagnosis during a routine check-up in February 2016 and revealed that he has been in remission since July. He urged men to go to the doctor for check-ups.

“If you're positive and you work through it and keep a smile on your face,” Stewart said. “I've worked for two years and just been happy and the good lord looked after me.”

The maker of a popular heartburn drug is stopping distribution over concerns the medication has an ingredient possibly linked to cancer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detected low levels of NDMA, a probable carcinogen, in Zantac and its generic versions.

Sandoz, a division of Swiss pharmaceutical maker Novartis issued a precautionary distribution stop while it conducts an internal investigation.

FDA officials did not issue a recall citing a need for more testing. The agency advised that consumers who want to discontinue prescriptions should talk to their doctor or pharmacist.

A breast cancer survivor set a new world record for swimming across the English Channel four times in a row. Sarah Thomas, who lives in Colorado, began the journey early Sunday and finished Tuesday — 54 hours later. The swim was dedicated to other cancer survivors.

The 37-year-old completed treatment a year ago and decided to do this to help raise awareness for breast cancer. Due to a strong tide, her distance was around 130 miles.

“I just can't believe we did it,” Thomas told BBC News. “I'm really just pretty numb. There was a lot of people on the beach to meet me and wish me well and it was really nice of them, but I feel just mostly stunned.”