UK drug giant AstraZeneca has begun recruiting patients with non-small cell lung cancer into a pivotal Phase II/III clinical study evaluating the efficacy of its novel VEGF signaling inhibitor, AZD2171.

The study, which is being run at centres across the globe by the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, is designed to assess survival and the tumour response rate in patients with advanced forms of the condition. Participants will be split into two groups, receiving a regimen of chemotherapy (paclitaxel and carboplatin) with either a once-daily AZD2171 or placebo pill.

AstraZeneca will be hoping that the compound, which works by inhibiting the cellular pathway responsible for the formation of blood vessels, proves an effective treatment against lung cancer - the most common malignancy worldwide with an estimated 1.2 million new cases and over 1 million deaths each year.

Commenting on the product’s potential, Glen Ross, co-chair of the study, noted: “AZD2171 is an exciting, novel drug. Based on preclinical experiments, AZD2171 appears to be highly potent at inhibiting the action of VEGF and suppressing angiogenesis, the process by which tumours hijack existing healthy blood vessels and use them to supply blood and nutrients to the tumour.”

In the summer, AstraZeneca said that it was moving another oncology agent, Zactima (formerly known as ZD6474), into Phase III trials involving NSCLC patients.