Doctor: Harper's Cancer Now 'Close to Remission'

August 29, 2013

Last March, veteran TV actress Valerie Harper announced to the world that she'd been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, with doctors estimating at the time that she only had three months to live. Now in a new interview, the former Mary Tyler Moore Show star is revealing a stunning reversal in the progression of her disease that's giving her new hope for recovery.

In interview clips aired Thursday on the Today show, the 74-year-old actress appears with her physician, neruo-oncologist Dr. Jeremy Rudnick, who explains that recent tests indicate that Harper may have beaten back the rare form of cancer (leptomeningeal carcinomatosis) that struck the membranes surrounding her brain.

When asked by NBC's Meredith Vieira during an interview for an hour-long documentary about Harper's battle with cancer set to air on the network September 19 at 10 p.m., Rudnick gives an update on her present condition. "I'd say that we're -- we're getting pretty close to remission," he said. "It defies the odds."

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"Wow, it's amazing," responds Harper, who details in the documentary how she's attempted to beat her cancer by using traditional chemotherapy alongside acupuncture and Chinese tea. Her husband, Tony Cacciotti, reacts the same way, "Wow, wow, that's amazing."

But Rudnick emphasized that the positive test results do not mean that Harper is cured and that the cancer can "develop resistance to the therapy," meaning that she's now bought more time before the cancer possibly recurs or becomes resistant to the current therapy.

The doctor said this means that Harper is still terminal, but with more time to live. "It's not a matter of if (the cancer becomes resistant)," but "a matter of when," Rudnick said.

VIDEO: Valerie Harper's Co-Star Reacts to Her Diagnosis

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