Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have been successful in the clinical testing of a vaccine that can have long-lasting anti-cocaine immunity in nonhuman primates.
"The vaccine eats up the cocaine in the blood like a little Pac-man before it can reach the brain. We believe this strategy is a win-win for those individuals, among the estimated 1.4 million cocaine users in the United States, who are committed to breaking their addiction to the drug. Even if a person who receives the anti-cocaine vaccine falls off the wagon, cocaine will have no effect," the study's lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, said.
During the study, researchers used PET, and discovered that the vaccine stopped cocaine from reaching the brain. The vaccine also activated the immune system to produce specific antibodies which latched on to cocaine molecules in the bloodstream. This stopped the drug from going through the blood-brain barrier.
"This is a direct demonstration in a large animal, using nuclear medicine technology, that we can reduce the amount of cocaine that reaches the brain sufficiently so that it is below the threshold by which you get the high," Crystal explained.
Testing of this vaccine on humans is the next significant step before it becomes available for use.