UCLA researchers are seeking smokers between the ages of 18 and 65 for a national study using an experimental vaccine to help them quit smoking.
“Very few smokers successfully quit, so new methods, beyond the patch and nicotine gum, are truly needed,” said Dr. Donald Tashkin, principal investigator and professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
The investigational vaccine produces antibodies that bind to nicotine. The resulting molecule is too large to reach the brain, and gradually reduces the satisfaction a smoker receives from cigarettes.
To qualify for the year-long study, volunteers must be in general good health and want to quit. Participants who pass an initial screening visit will be assigned at random (similar to flipping a coin) to receive either the investigational vaccine called NicVAX, or a placebo (inactive substance).
Volunteers will receive six injections over the course of the study and will keep an electronic diary, receive behavioral counseling sessions to help them quit, and have regular physical exams, including blood tests and carbon monoxide testing, which involves blowing into a tube.
Nationwide more than 430,000 Americans die each year of smoking-related diseases, including heart disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer.
Side effects to the vaccine or placebo injection were similar and included fever, muscle aches, tiredness, headache, nausea, or vomiting, which usually resolve within several days following the injection. In addition, there may be temporary local discomfort at the site of the injection.
The study is funded by Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, the company that makes the investigational vaccine NicVAX.