This shocking news that he needs aggressive treatment for a recurrence of cancer was made public today by Starz cable network and the Spartacus: Blood and Sand star himself, Andy Whitfield. He was first diagnosed with treatable Stage 1 non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early March. But recently the actor had been in remission and training hard for Season 2. He even attended the Spartacus panel at Comic-Con where he said he felt “better than ever”. His first diagnosis put production on hold for the next season while he underwent treatment. He was given a clean bill of health in May. To bridge the two seasons of Spartacus, Starz greenlighted the prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, which is now filming in New Zealand and will premiere in January as planned. However, the future of the mothership series is unclear. Production on the second season was supposed to start soon.

Here is the network’s statement:

Andy Whitfield, star of Starz’s “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” has been advised by his doctors to immediately resume aggressive treatment for a recurrence of cancer, as a result of which he will not be returning for the series’ second season, which was tentatively set to air in September 2011.

“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,” said Whitfield.

“Our hearts and prayers are with Andy and his family during this difficult time,” said Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht. “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.”

No decisions have yet been made about the future of the series. “Right now, we just want to extend our concern and support to Andy and his family,” said Carmi Zlotnik, Managing Director, Starz Media. “We will address our programming plans at some later date.”

Starz still plans to air the prequel to Spartacus: Blood and Sand in January 2011. Entitled Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, it focuses on the House of Batiatus before Spartacus arrives in Capua and stars returning cast members John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Peter Mensah and Manu Bennett, along with newcomer Dustin Clare.