Scientists from the University of Birmingham found that a modified form of Ecstasy (MDMA) could be used in treating melanoma, lymphoma, and leukemia, after scientists modified the drug to increase its tumor-killing properties.
The nightclubbers' drug, Ecstasy, as well as, other psychotropic drugs is said to be able to suppress the growth of over half of all white blood cancer cells.
New research proves that Ecstasy may kill some cancer cells, but scientists have increased its effectiveness 100-fold, they noted in the journal, Investigational New Drugs.
Researchers also chemically re-engineered ecstasy by taking some atoms away and putting new ones in their place, thus reducing the toxic effect on the brain.
An earlier study showed all leukemia, lymphoma and melanoma cells could be killed in a test tube, but any treatment would be a decade away.
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That's obviously not a very good treatment, says John Gordon, a professor of cellular immunology at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., explaining that knowing the toxic dose gave his team a place to start when redesigning the designer drug.
Gordon explained, in the study, that the type of lymphoma cells being studied in his lab derive from immune cells called B-cells, which make up 80 percent to 90 percent of non-Hodgkins lymphoma cancer cases.
Together, we were looking at structures of compounds that were more effective, said Gordon, of Birmingham's School of Immunology and Infection.
BBC News reports, one variant increased cancer-fighting effectiveness 100-fold, meaning if 100 grams of un-modified ecstasy was needed to get the desired effect, only one gram of the modified ecstasy would be needed to have the same effect.
Scientific director David Grant said, “The prospect of being able to target blood cancer with a drug derived from ecstasy is exciting. ...Effective drugs are badly needed.”
Scientists at the University of Birmingham discovered that six years ago and included in their laboratory experiments were weight-loss pills and antidepressants like Prozac.
Against the cancers, particularly the leukemia, the lymphoma and the melanoma, where we've tested these new compounds we can wipe out 100 percent of the cancer cells in some cases, Gordon said.
Study authors wrote that using enough MDMA to effectively treat a patient with a malignant tumor would likely kill cancer cells.
Gordon added, 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.
TIME reported, it's not clear whether the experimental compounds will produce a high-like recreational version of ecstasy. Although, full studies on their psychoactive properties have not been completed, preliminary work suggests that the analogues are less likely to do so than MDMA.
But even if the new drug does remain psychoactive, given the grueling side effects associated with most cancer treatment, having feelings of peacefulness and connection with others is unlikely to be objectionable. You could have worse side effects, Gordon noted.