New Study Brings Cocaine Addiction Medication Closer to Reality

By Victoria Kim 04/28/14

A new compound has proven to be greatly effective in suppressing the urge to relapse by blocking the narcotic's rewarding effects.

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University at Buffalo researchers have presented strong evidence that a novel compound could be the lead compound for treating cocaine addiction. While there is no effective medication for treating cocaine addiction at the moment, the UB study, which used animal models of human cocaine abuse, is a step closer to such a medication becoming a reality.

The compound, RO5263397, was able to dramatically suppress a broad range of cocaine addiction behaviors, including relapse. The compound was able to block cocaine’s rewarding effects and reduce the study animals’ motivation to get cocaine. “When we give the rats RO5263397, they no longer perceive cocaine rewarding, suggesting that the primary effect that drives cocaine addiction in humans has been blunted,” said Jun-Xu Li, senior author and assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

This is the first systematic study to convincingly show that the novel compound has the potential to treat cocaine addiction, Li said. The combination of RO5263397 and a novel receptor in the brain, TAAR 1, could lead to the development of medication for treating cocaine addiction. The RO5263397 compound targets the TAAR 1 receptor. “Because TAAR 1 anatomically and neurochemically is closely related to dopamine - one of the key molecules in the brain that contributes to cocaine addiction - and is thought to be a ‘brake’ on dopamine activity, drugs that stimulate TAAR 1 may be able to counteract cocaine addiction,” Li said. 

The study, published as a preview last week in Neuropsychopharmacology, is especially important since there is no effective medication for treating cocaine addiction. The UB researchers plan to continue studying RO5263397, especially its ability to curb relapse behavior.

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