Although "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" star Andy Whitfield told Zap2it in July that he's feeling "better than ever," apparently his non-Hodgkin lymphoma has returned, causing him to leave the Starz gladiator ring for treatment.
The network states in an announcement that doctors told him to "immediately resume aggressive treatment for a recurrence of cancer."
"It's with a deep sense of disappointment that I must step aside from such an exceptional project as 'Spartacus' and all the wonderful people involved. It seems that it is time for myself and my family to embark on another extraordinary journey. Thank you sincerely for the support so far," says Whitfield.
Starz adds: "Our hearts and prayers are with Andy and his family during this difficult time. Andy is not only an incredible actor whose portrayal of Spartacus made an indelible impression on Starz audiences, he is also an amazing human being whose courage, strength, and grace in the face of adversity have inspired all of us."
In the meantime, Starz hasn't yet determined the fate of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." Whitfield had been training for the second season, which was tentatively scheduled to air in September 2011. Plans for the series will be announced "at some later date."
"Spartacus: Gods of the Arena," the prequel to "Spartcus: Blood and Sand," will air as planned in January 2011. It stars John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Peter Mensah and Manu Bennett, along with newcomer Dustin Clare.