17 May 2005

An Anti-Smoking Vaccine

Here's a surprising welcome news for smokers who think vaccines are good only for infections like polio, measles, and smallpox.

There's now an anti-nicotine vaccine in the works showing great promise in stopping the age-old scourge of smoking and nicotine addiction.

Nicotine Vaccine Shows Promise

The world's 1.3 billion smokers could eventually have a powerful new way to kick the habit --- a vaccine against nicotine.

Nearly 60 percent of smokers who achieved high levels of antibodies against nicotine after receiving the vaccine stopped smoking for at least six months, according to a study presented Saturday at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando, Florida.

About a third of those who developed lower levels of antibodies stopped smoking, about the same fraction as those who received a placebo vaccine, according to Dr. Jacques Cornuz of Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Lausanne, Switzerland, who led the study.

"The data clearly suggest that antibodies against nicotine are effective in helping people quit smoking," Cornuz said in a telephone interview after he delivered the paper. "This confirms the concept of vaccination" against smoking.

[Los Angeles Times Science and Medicine]

How does it work?

The anti-smoking vaccine codenamed CYT002-NicQb works by inducing "nicotine-specific antibodies" to bind nicotine in the blood before it gets into the brain.

Smokers find it difficult to quit because the nicotine in cigarettes produces an addiction greater than an addiction to heroin or cocaine. Although there are more than 4,000 chemicals found in a cigarette, it is nicotine that primarily acts on the brain.

A typical cigarette contains about 10 milligrams of nicotine and an average smoker takes in 1 to 2 mg nicotine per cigarette.

As a drug-delivery device, the cigarette is many times better than a syringe used for injection. So by doing some math (bear with me, Sassy), an average smoker (attention BongK) who does 10 puffs on a cigarette over a period of 5 minutes and smokes about one and a half pack (30 cigarettes) every day, gets 300 "hits" of nicotine to the brain each day. More nicotine, more addiction. It's a wonderful yet deadly cycle.

And I need not mention how lung cancer and smoking are related. I'm pretty sure you already know that by now.

The LA Times said that at least four companies are working on an anti-smoking vaccine --- Xenova Group of Berkshire, England, Nabi Biopharmaceuticals of Boca Raton, Florida, and Prommune of Omaha, Nebraska, and Cytos Biotechnology of Zurich, Switzerland, in which this good news comes from.

Bad news for companies like this but good news for the many smokers wanting to quit.

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