Initial Cross-Over Test of A Positive Allosteric Modulator of Alpha-7 Nicotinic Receptors to Aid Cessation in Smokers With Or Without Schizophrenia

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018 May;43(6):1334-1342. doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.292. Epub 2017 Nov 29.


Preclinical research shows that compounds acting at α7 nicotinic receptors (nAChRs) can reduce nicotine self-administration, suggesting that a positive allosteric modulator (PAM) of α7 receptors, JNJ-39393406, may aid smoking cessation. Moreover, individuals with schizophrenia, who have very high rates of smoking, have reduced expression of α7 nAChRs and may particularly benefit from this compound. In two parallel studies using a within-subject cross-over design, 36 healthy smokers (Study 1) and 62 smokers with schizophrenia (Study 2), both groups high in quit interest, attempted to initiate quitting temporarily during each of two 3-week phases. Treatments were the α7 nicotinic receptor PAM JNJ-39393406 (100 mg b.i.d.) or placebo (double-blind, counter-balanced). In each phase, all smoked ad lib with no drug on week 1 or during dose run-up on week 2, and then tried to quit every day during week 3. Abstinence (confirmed by CO <5 p.p.m.) and smoking reduction (CO <8), as well as cigarettes/day (in Study 1), were assessed daily (Monday-Friday) each quit week and compared between conditions. Secondary outcomes included abstinence symptoms (withdrawal and craving) and cognitive test responding (N-back; continuous performance task). In both studies, compared with placebo, active JNJ-39393406 did not increase the number of abstinent days nor reduce total smoking exposure. We also found no significant improvements in craving, withdrawal, or cognitive function. With this dose and study duration, our findings do not support further testing of this α7 nAChR PAM compound for possible efficacy in smoking cessation, in smokers with or without schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotinic Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Pyridines / therapeutic use*
  • Schizophrenia / complications*
  • Schizophrenia / metabolism
  • Smoking / drug therapy*
  • Smoking / metabolism
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Smoking Cessation Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / complications
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / drug therapy
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / metabolism
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Triazoles / therapeutic use*
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor / agonists*
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor / metabolism


  • Chrna7 protein, human
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Pyridines
  • Smoking Cessation Agents
  • Triazoles
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor
  • JNJ-39393406