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Modified MDMA, also known as the euphoric drug Ecstasy, is now a viable therapy for several types of blood cancers, according to an article published in Investigational New Drugs. Dr. David Grant, Director of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research of the charity that helped fund the study, told the BBC:
“The prospect of being able to target blood cancer with a drug derived from Ecstasy is a genuinely exciting proposition. Many types of lymphoma remain hard to treat and non-toxic drugs which are both effective and have few side effects are desperately needed. Further work is required but this research is a significant step forward in developing a potential new cancer drug.”
In 2006, researchers at the University of Birmingham originally discovered that ecstasy, some anti-depressants and weight-loss pills were effective in destroying white blood cancer cells.
However, the doses needed to make a notable effect on cancer patients were fatally high. In order to minimize the toxic effect of MDMA on the brain, scientists from the University of Birmingham teamed up with researchers from the University of Western Australia to retweak atoms of the psychotropic drug.
The additional research produced a modified form of MDMA 100 times more potent at fighting cancer cells than its original form.
Professor John Gordon, lead author, said:
“Together, we were looking at structures of compounds that were more effective. They started to look more lipophilic, that is, they were attracted to the lipids that make up cell walls. This would make them more ‘soapy’ so they would end up getting into the cancer cells more easily and possibly even start dissolving them. By knowing this we can theoretically make even more potent analogues of MDMA and eventually reach a point where we will have in our drug cabinet the most potent form we could.”
Ecstasy is a drug that produces distinctive emotional and social effects and is commonly linked to dance parties.