Nicotine Vaccine May Help Smokers Quit

Hopefully spoils the smoking
pleasure: nicotine vaccine

Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., director of the University of Minnesota Cancer Center's Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (TTURC), is the lead author on this study. The 38-week study included 68 active smokers who were randomly assigned to receive one of three different doses of the vaccine or a placebo. "The vaccine works by producing antibodies that specifically bind to nicotine and thereby prevent much of the nicotine from entering the brain," Hatsukami said. "This process potentially reduces the pleasurable effects from smoking and reduces the addiction to nicotine."

"More research needs to be done, but at this point, our results show the vaccine is safe and well-tolerated," Hatsukami said. "We found the vaccine has few side effects on the central nervous system because the antibody itself is targeted specifically for nicotine and does not alter any functions of the brain."

Additionally, she says that while this study was not designed to test the treatment effect, 38 percent of the participants in the high-dose vaccine group quit smoking for at least 30 days. "This result was an impressive and completely unexpected finding because the study was not focused on helping smokers quit smoking," she noted. "In fact, to participate in the study, smokers had to attest that they did not have a planned quit date for the next six months."

According to Hatsukami, the most commonly reported side effect was an ache and tenderness in the area of the arm where the vaccine was injected. Some of the participants also reported headaches and muscle pain, which in all cases went away in a few days.

"No differences were noted in withdrawal symptoms between participants who received the vaccine and those who got the placebo," Hatsukami said. "We also did not see a compensatory smoking behaviour, meaning that vaccinated participants did not puff harder on cigarettes or smoke more cigarettes to make up for the lower levels of nicotine delivered to the brain."; Source: University of Minnesota