Jeopardy! contestants create a Play Along Challenge to raise funds for pancreatic research

By Jeffrey Vallis


Earlier this week, long-time Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek, announced on the show's YouTube channel that he has been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. 

“Now normally the prognosis for this is not very encouraging. But I’m going to fight this … I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease,” says Trebek in the YouTube announcement (see below). “Keep the faith, and we’ll win. We’ll get it done.”

Former U.S. contestants Chelsea Cohen and Tim Edwards immediately took action and created the “Jeopardy! Play Along for Pancreatic Cancer Research Challenge,” which is not affiliated with the show. 

Supporters can participate by playing along with Jeopardy! on TV. For every correct response guessed, the participant pledges a donation of $1 to pancreatic cancer research and challenges friends to match their donations and to play along. Participants are encouraged (but not required) to livestream the game via Facebook Live or Instagram Live. They are also asked to post an update with the results and amount donated and to tag friends to encourage others to continue the challenge during the next broadcast.

The initiative launches this Friday, March 15, and the former contestants are promoting it with a Facebook event with the hashtag #JPlayAlongChallenge on Instagram and Twitter.

In Canada, participants can donate to The Princess Margaret’s Pancreas Cancer Research Fund.

Toronto Jeopardy! Winner Participates in Challenge


Michelle Cabral, the Toronto-based, three-time Jeopardy! winner, loved the idea and is helping to promote and support the contestant-led, contestant-created initiative north of the border.

“I couldn’t like this idea enough. It’s something fun,” says Cabral. “If you’re a fan of the show — whether you’re a contestant or viewer — people watch the show and they yell out the answers at the television. So why not do that for a good cause?”

Trebek’s announcement came one year, almost to the day, that Cabral taped her 2018 appearance on Jeopardy! in Los Angeles.  

“I’m so thankful for that experience and I want to give back,” says Cabral. “So I want to show my gratitude for that and use the visibility that it’s given me in some small degree to help people who are fighting that disease.”

She will livestream on her Facebook page on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) and plans to donate her funds to The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation’s Pancreas Cancer Research Fund.

“I’ve had friends who have gone through The Princess Margaret and said they’ve never seen such top notch care and attention to making sure they came out as healthy as possible,” says Cabral. “Let’s use this to spread awareness about the disease and hopefully raise some funds.”

The Princess Margaret is home to the Wallace McCain Centre for Pancreatic Cancer whose vision is to be the global leader in comprehensive pancreatic cancer care. 

About Pancreatic Cancer

With few known symptoms, limited treatment options and a lack of tests for early detection, pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. 

"Unfortunately, Stage 4 is a very advanced disease and the survival is around a year," said Dr. Steven Gallinger in a televised appearance with Cabral to promote the initiative on Breakfast Television. "Pancreas cancer spreads very rapidly, even when it's very tiny, so we don't have a lot of early warning signs in many cases."

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 5,500 Canadians were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017 and 87 per cent died from the disease. On average, about 8 per cent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will survive for at least five years.

The Princess Margaret is home to the largest pancreatic cancer clinical trials and research program in Canada. Recently, experts at The Princess Margaret teamed up with other Canadian researchers in the $5 million pan-Canadian, precision medicine initiative funded by the Terry Fox Research Institute to bring new hope for patients with pancreatic cancer.

About Alex Trebek

Trebek was born in Sudbury, Ontario and spent his first 33 years living in Canada. In 2017, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada for "his iconic achievements in television and for his promotion of learning, notably as a champion for geographical literacy."

Involved in philanthropy and activism throughout his career, the University of Ottawa graduate donated $5 million to the UofO in 2016 to fund the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue, the objective of which is "to expose students to a wide range of diverse views, through speeches, public panels, events and lectures by University of Ottawa researchers, senior government officials and guests speakers from around the world."

The long-time Jeopardy! host has been at the helm of "America's Favorite Quiz Show" for over 34 years, since its revival in 1984. With over 7,000 episodes aired, the show has won a record 33 Daytime Emmy Awards and was ranked No. 45 on TV Guide’s list of the 60 greatest shows in American television history.