AstraZeneca says that it has started another late-stage trial of its experimental drug Zactima in lung cancer patients as a second-line treatment.

The Phase III trial, called Study 36, will investigate the addition of Zactima (vandetanib), formerly known as ZD6474, to Eli Lilly's Alimta (pemetrexed) as second line treatment for patients with locally-advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) after failure of first line anti-cancer treatment. The study will be conducted across 20 countries, including 20 sites in the USA, and is expected to enroll at least 508 patients.

As its primary objective, Study 36 will evaluate progression-free survival with vandetanib 100mg plus pemetrexed 500mg/m2 compared with pemetrexed 500mg/m2 plus placebo in patients with advanced NSCLC, who have previously received anti-cancer treatment.

The study is AstraZeneca’s fourth Phase III trial in this tumour and two of the others are looking at Zactima in combination with docetaxel and versus erlotinib. The company will be hoping for some promising data to come out of the studies, given the series of late-stage pipeline blows it has suffered recently, notably with NXY-059 (formerly Cerovive), a candidate drug for stroke and Galida (tesaglitazar) for diabetes.

More job losses for Sweden

Meantime, AstraZeneca also announced that 850 jobs are to go at its Swedish operations as part of its planned reduction of around 3,000 jobs or nearly 5% of its work force over the next three years.

The latest move comes on top of 450 jobs being cut in Sweden this year, which the firm believes can be achieved through retirement and voluntary redundancies. It employs some 12,800 staff in Sweden, 4,500 of whom work in production.

The news comes in wake of AstraZeneca unveiling plans to shed 700 jobs at its manufacturing plant in Macclesfield, UK over the next three years, out of a workforce of around 2,500.