April 12, 2005 08:00 AM

ABC News anchor Peter Jennings is expected to begin his chemotherapy treatments Tuesday, having spent the past week since his announcement that he has lung cancer working behind the scenes on World News Tonight.

Jennings, 66, devoted Monday to time at his office, the New York Post reports. And while there is speculation about who will ultimately replace Jennings on the network’s signature newscast, ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider tells Newsday: “Let me be crystal clear. Peter Jennings is the anchor of World News Tonight, and when he can do the broadcast, he will. We are very lucky to have the deepest bench in network television to keep that seat warm for him.”

Word of Jennings’s dire medical condition spread last Tuesday, after he had sent an e-mail to friends and colleagues announcing his diagnosis. That night, Jennings did not sit at his anchor desk for the broadcast. Elizabeth Vargas handled the job, and she and Charlie Gibson will act as substitute hosts whenever Jennings can’t work.

But Jennings did appear in a taped commentary at the end of the broadcast, to discuss – in a strained voice – his cancer. “I will continue to do the broadcast. On good days, my voice will not always be like this,” said Jennings, who also admitted he was a former heavy smoker who quit 20 years ago, only to resume while covering the 9/11 attacks.

The newsman has not said specifically what kind of lung cancer he has or how far along his condition is.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 172,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005. About 60 percent of those will be dead within a year of diagnosis; between 70 and 80 percent will be dead within two years. More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined, according to statistics.

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