Actor Patrick Swayze, best known for his roles in the films Dirty Dancing and Ghost, has died after battling pancreatic cancer. The Houston-born performer, who studied dance before tackling a career on stage and screen, was 57 years old. "Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months," said a statement released Monday evening in Los Angeles by his publicist, Annett Wolf. No other details were given. A three-time Golden Globe nominee, Swayze confirmed in March 2008 that he was being treated for pancreatic cancer, after rumours arose that he was seriously ill and had just several weeks to live. C. Thomas Howell, who co-starred with Swayze in The Outsiders, Grandview U.S.A. and Red Dawn, said: "I have always had a special place in my heart for Patrick. While I was fortunate enough to work with him in three films, it was our passion for horses that forged a friendship between us that I treasure to this day. Not only did we lose a fine actor today, I lost my older 'Outsiders' brother." Other celebrities used Twitter to express condolences, including his Ghost co-star Demi Moore, who wrote, "RIP P Swayze." The son of a ballet choreographer and a champion Texas cowboy, Swayze began formal dance training young, later pursuing studies at New York's Harkness school and the Joffrey Ballet School. Starting out, Swayze moved between television, film and the occasional stage role. Early parts in films like The Outsiders,Red Dawn and Youngblood helped make him a regular face in Hollywood. Hit big time The Texan first achieved major success with his starring role in North and South, the 1985 TV miniseries set during the U.S. Civil War. His silver screen breakthrough came two years later with the low-budget drama Dirty Dancing. Swayze's turn as Johnny Castle, a tough but sensitive dance instructor from the wrong side of the tracks, became one of his most enduring roles. Originally conceived as a low-budget film, Dirty Dancing became a smash hit that found international success and, eventually spawned a hit stage musical and a film sequel (the critically maligned Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights). "I'm completely proud of it," Swayze told Australian press recently, referring to the Dirty Dancing legacy. "It's been the cult-following movies that have really surprised me. That's been the real reason why my career has lasted so long." Snubs Hollywood for a time Though Swayze had subsequent movie hits — including the blues-tinged bouncer film Road House, the Oscar-winning romantic blockbuster Ghost and the surfer-bank robber thriller Point Break — his career began to decline in the mid-1990s, when he turned away from Hollywood. "I got completely fed up with that Hollywood blockbuster mentality," Swayze told the U.K.'s Daily Mail in 2005. "I couldn't take it seriously any longer." In recent years, he returned to mixing appearances on film with TV and stage projects, including the 2001 movie Donnie Darko, and roles in Chicago on Broadway and Guys and Dolls in London's West End. Most recently, he completed filming on the A&E television series The Beast despite his cancer diagnosis and treatment. Swayze is survived by his wife Lisa Niemi, a former dance student of his mother's. The couple married in 1975 and have no children. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- He was a great actor my favorite movie of his was ROADHOUSE. Its to bad he really put up a fight with that cancer and thought he had it beat for a while there.