QUEBEC — Aeterna Zentaris Inc. returned to profitability and booked a massive spike in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2009 but the cancer drug developer attributed part of its gains to a licensing agreement that has since been scrapped.

Revenue soared to more than five times the levels booked in the same quarter of 2008, totalling US$40.2 million compared to US$7.2 million recorded the year before.

The Quebec-based pharmaceutical firm, which reports in U.S. dollars, said the sharp revenue spike was attributable to a $30.4 million up-front payment made by pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis.

However the agreement to distribute Aeterna Zentaris' product cetrorelix Pamoate, which was designed to treat enlarged prostate glands, was terminated after the drug failed a European drug trial in December.

The firm reported a profit of US$12 million or 19 cents per share for the quarter ended Dec. 31. The net earnings reversed a year-earlier loss of $14.5 million or 27 cents per share.

For the 2009 fiscal year, Aeterna Zentaris reported it more than halved losses to $24.7 million or 43 cents per share from $59.8 million or $1.12 per share recorded in 2008.

Revenues soared to $63.2 million from year-earlier levels of $38.5 million.