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Anti-Smoking Vaccine Shows Promise

NicVax helped smokers quit, even when they had little intention to do so

MONDAY, Dec. 26, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A nicotine vaccine called NicVax appears to be a safe, well-tolerated and potentially effective aid in helping people quit smoking, researchers find.

The 38-week study included 68 current smokers who received one of three different doses of the vaccine or a placebo. The study wasn't designed to evaluate the treatment effect of the vaccine, but the researchers did find that 38 percent of the people taking the high dose of vaccine 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 quite smoking. 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," study author Dorothy Hatsukami, director of the University of Minnesota Cancer Center's Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center, said in a prepared statement.

The study was partially funded by Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, which developed NicVax. The findings appear in the current issue of 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. This process potentially reduces the pleasurable effects from smoking and reduces the addiction to nicotine," Hatsukami said.

More research is required to answer a number of questions about the vaccine, including how long it remains effective in smokers and whether it can be used to help prevent relapses in people who've quit smoking.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about smoking cessation.

SOURCE: University of Minnesota, news release, Nov. 28, 2005
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