By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated October 15, 2002 10:00 AM

Actor Richard Harris, whose most recent and, perhaps, most widely seen role is that of Professor Albus Dumbledore in the “Harry Potter” movies, is battling cancer, his agent tells BBC News Online.

The veteran Irish actor, 72, a one-time hell-raiser who first rose to international stardom in the late ’60s as the leading man in such Hollywood movies as “Camelot” and “A Man Called Horse,” has received some initial doses of chemotherapy after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, said the agent. He would not specify, however, when the diagnosis had been made.

Hodgkin’s disease, which affects the lymph glands, is normally treated with radiotherapy, chemotherapy or both. Harris reportedly became ill in August, entering the hospital with complaints of a severe chest infection.

The actor has been in central London’s University College Hospital for two months, according to the BBC report, which goes on to say that he is expected to be discharged in time to work on the third Harry Potter film, “The Prisoner of Azkaban.” (The first “Potter” movie, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” was a hit last Christmas, and the second film, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” is due for release next month.)

“He has responded very, very well to treatment and he should be out of (the) hospital soon,” said his agent. “He absolutely will be in (the next) ‘Harry Potter.’ Filming is not due to start until March.”