VANCOUVER -- Terry Fox devoted his life to raising money for cancer research and now his father has been diagnosed with the disease.

The family announced Tuesday on the Terry Fox Foundation website that 80-year-old Rolland Fox, known as Rolly, was recently diagnosed with lung cancer.

"He remains in very good spirits, confirmed by the dated and overused humour we are forced to endure," the family says in a statement.

"Though initially troubled by the news, Rolly is committed to approaching the challenge now before him by adhering to the traits -- optimism and a never give up attitude -- that he likely passed on to his son Terry."

Rolly Fox started smoking at age 19, consistent with the times, and quit on a dare from his brother in 1986, the family says. He completed a 16-kilometre run the next year.

The patriarch has been a "behind-the-scenes believer" of his son's mission for 36 years and after the 2011 death of his wife and Terry Fox's mother Betty Fox, became more active, visiting Terry Fox Runs across Canada, the family says.

Terry Fox became a national icon after he ran more than 5,000 kilometres over 143 days in 1980 to raise money for cancer research. He died the following year at age 22.

The family notes that lung cancer claims the lives of more Canadians than any other form of cancer, but because of the smoking stigma it is often neglected as a funding priority in research.

The Terry Fox Research Institute, with funding from the foundation, recently completed a Canadian study to detect lung cancer early.

"We thank you for your continued support for our family during this period and for keeping alive Terry's dream of ending cancer through research," the family says.

"Our family will endeavour to keep supporters updated but will not be making any further public comments at this time."