April 16, 2002 01:00 PM

Emmy-winning “Vega$” and “Spenser: For Hire” star Robert Urich, 55, died of cancer on Tuesday morning at a hospital in Thousand Oaks, Calif., his publicist, Cindy Guagenti, told the Associated Press. He was surrounded by family members (wife Heather Menzies and children Ryan, Emily and Allison) and friends, she said. Urich, an Ohio native, was first diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma, a rare cancer that attacks the body’s joints, in 1996 when doctors discovered a tumor in his groin. Urich eventually went into remission following chemotherapy, radiation treatments and two operations. Last November, Urich told Variety columnist Army Archerd that some new tumors had been discovered over the summer, but that “a wonder drug cleared them up.” Urich was in the process of writing his memoirs, “An Extraordinary Life” (with David Dalton), when his health took a turn for the worse, Archerd reported earlier this week. Urich and his wife had established the Heather and Robert Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research at the University of Michigan to accelerate research into sarcoma, and he recently had costarred in the short-lived NBC sitcom “Emeril.” His best-known roles were as private eye Dan Tanna in “Vega$,” which ran on ABC from 1978-81, and then as the title character in “Spenser: For Hire,” which ABC aired from 1985-88. A memorial service in Los Angeles is set for Friday.

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