"Spartacus: Blood and Sand" star dies from non-Hodgkin lymphoma

In this undated file TV publicity image released by Starz, Andy Whitfield portrays Spartacus in the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Whitfield died of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in Australia Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011.
File,AP Photo/Starz Entertainment. LLC
Andy Whitfield, Spartacus
Andy Whitfield, who portrayed Spartacus in the Starz series "Spartacus: Blood and Sand,"died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Australia Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011.
File,AP Photo/Starz Entertainment. LLC

(CBS/AP) Andy Whitfield, the actor known for battling Romans in the title role of the TV-series "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," has lost his battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Pictures: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: Key questions answered

The 39-year-old Welsh-born star died in Sydney, Australia, Sunday, September 11, 18 months after being diagnosed with the disease.

"On a beautiful sunny Sydney spring morning, surrounded by his family, in the arms of his loving wife, our beautiful young warrior Andy Whitfield lost his 18 month battle with lymphoma cancer," Whitfield's wife, Vashti, said in a written statement. "Thank you to all his fans whose love and support have help carry him to this point. He will be remembered as the inspiring, courageous and gentle man, father and husband he was."

"Andy's incandescent film presence made men want to be him and women want to marry him," his co-star Lucy Lawless, told Entertainment Weekly. "How lucky we were to have him grace all our lives."

Whitfield rose from anonymity when he nabbed the role of Spartacus on the Starz series in 2010. He appeared in every episode of the first season and was preparing for the second when diagnosed.

During his treatment, the network produced a six-part prequel, "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena," which aired earlier this year and included a brief voice-over from Whitfield. But his condition worsened in January, and the network replaced him.

Whitfield's death spotlights Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the most common cancer of the immune system. The cancer strikes 66,000 Americans each year, and kills 19,000. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma starts in the immune system's lymphocytes - a type of white blood cell - and can spread to other lymph tissues and organs, including bone marrow, the spleen, and liver. There are at least 61 types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that grow and affect the body differently, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Treatment options vary from watchful waiting to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and stem cell transplants and other novel treatments.

Click here to learn more key facts about non-Hodgkin lymphoma.