Patrick Swayze's battle with pancreatic cancer has taken another turn for the better after the actor signed to star in a new television drama.

The 55-year-old actor was diagnosed with the disease in March with initial tabloid reports suggesting he had just weeks to live.

But after stressing last month that he continues to "respond well" to treatment, Swayze has been given the green light to begin shooting The Beast for the A&E television network.

The Dirty Dancing star is to play Charles Barker, a veteran FBI agent who passes on his unorthodox detection methods to his rookie partner (Travis Fimmel).

Filming is set to commence this summer in Chicago, with a planned US premiere date of 2009.

In a statement issued by A&E, Swayze said he had "searched for quite a long time to find a character that is this multi-layered, unpredictable and downright entertaining, as well as a project this current and cutting edged".

"Chicago is an amazing, untapped city. I can't wait to get to work on this," he added.

Speaking to the New York Times newspaper, A&E general manager Bob DeBittetto said he had "a fairly high degree of expectation that Patrick will be good to work a full production schedule".

"No-one is using words like cured or remission or miracle," he explained, but said Swayze's therapy was progressing sufficiently well to allow him to act.

After rising to fame as the hip-swaying Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing in 1987, Swayze went on to star opposite Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost before appearing in a host of films including Point Break and Donnie Darko.

09/06/2008 09:34:03