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 findings are published in the current issue of the journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
"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."
The vaccine may become a new option for helping the approximately 45 million people in the United States who smoke. In 2004, the rate for smoking in Minnesota was about the same as the national average of 20.9 percent.
"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."