The Doctors: Valerie Harper Treatment & Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis

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The Doctors: Valerie Harper Interview

The Doctors: Valerie Harper Treatment & Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis

Valerie Harper was joined by her husband, Tony Cacciotti, and her doctors from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on The Doctors. (Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com)

Valerie Harper, actress and beloved TV icon, recently announced that she has terminal brain cancer at the age of 73. Valerie continued her exclusive interview on The Doctors and was joined by her husband, Tony Cacciotti. Later, Valerie’s doctors from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center discussed her treatment.

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Valerie Harper: Husband Tony Cacciotti

Tony Cacciotti, Valerie’s husband of 26 years, appeared to explain how his wife’s diagnosis hit him “from out of left field.” After beating lung cancer together in 2009, he found it “devastating” to learn that Valerie could have just three months to live.

After Valerie displayed early signs of what Tony believed could have been a stroke, Tony rushed Valerie to the hospital. He knew that it was quite serious from the beginning, even before they knew it was brain cancer. Tony was the first person to learn his wife’s diagnosis, which he didn’t want to believe could be true. Even on The Doctors stage, Tony looked completely shocked and saddened.

Together, Tony and Valerie are trying to keep a positive attitude, even under the most unthinkable circumstances. Valerie believes that she can help more people by speaking out rather than staying quiet. “I’ve always had a big mouth,” she joked, lightening the mood.

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The Doctors: Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis

The Doctors also featured Valerie’s doctors, neuro-oncologist Dr. Jeremy Rudnick and oncologist Dr. Ronald Natale from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. They first treated Valerie’s lung cancer and explained that the chance of recurrence after two years is less than 2%. Despite this, Valerie’s cancer returned and spread to the meninges of the brain. In his entire career, Dr. Natale had never seen this “amazingly rare” occurrence. Valerie’s condition is known as Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis.

The Drs: Valerie Harper Treatment

What makes brain cancer so difficult to treat is the blood-barrier of the brain. The barrier used to serve the evolutionary purpose of protecting the brain from bacteria or poison, but now it makes chemotherapy treatment almost impossible. Using scans of Valerie’s frontal lobe, Dr. Rudnick explained the new types of treatments being used on her cancer.

Valerie Harper: Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis Explanation

Later, Valerie explained more about Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis. As Dr. Travis Stork said, Valerie has really “taken the time to understand what’s going on” in her own body. Hear more from Valerie and her doctors on Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis and her experimental treatment, “next generation sequencing.”

“We think we have about a 50/50 chance of identifying a mutation for which we hopefully will have an experimental treatment,” Dr. Natale said.

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