Vaccine for Nicotine Addiction Focus of U. Nebraska, Partner Schools

(U-WIRE) LINCOLN, Neb. 09/04/2003- The University of Nebraska Medical Center is participating in a national study to create a vaccine that may help smokers quit and prevent relapses after quitting.UNMC has partnered with the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin Medical School in a clinical study of NicVAX, a vaccine developed by Nabi Biopharmaceuticals for the prevention and treatment of nicotine addiction.The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health.The Nebraska part of the study, which began in August, will include 21 patients ages 19 and older for a nine-month clinical trial, said Dr. Stephen Rennard, a UNMC professor of medicine and UNMC’s principal investigator for the study.Five people are currently enrolled in the study, and UNMC researchers are still looking for more people to volunteer. Rennard said he hoped to fill the remaining 16 slots this month.In all, the study will include 61 people in Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin, he said. Dave Daughton, a UNMC pulmonary medicine researcher, said the vaccine creates antibodies, which would bind the small molecules of nicotine and prevent the majority of them from entering the brain. In theory, this would make smoking less enjoyable.”Theoretically, this could be a potent weapon in the long term,” Daughton said.Researchers aren’t sure how well people will respond to the vaccine or how long the antibodies would remain in a person’s system, he said.Rennard said those participating in the study will be injected in both arms monthly.They will be given two doses of the vaccine, two doses of the placebo or one dose of each. The study participants won’t know what they are receiving.Smoking cessation methods, such as patches and gum, already exist, but they only help about 30 percent of those who want to quit permanently, Rennard said.”Something better is needed,” he said. “The vaccine is exciting because it works by a different method.”Many people who quit smoking return to it weeks or months later, he said.”You can quit, but if you take one puff, (the smokers) go back to the habit,” Rennard said. If the study is successful and the vaccine shows no serious side effects, it will expand to include thousands of people nationwide, he said.If that happens, the vaccine would be presented to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. “We are always happy to help people stop smoking,” Rennard said.Those interested in participating in the study should call (402) 559-9168.