Modified ecstasy could one day have a role to play in fighting some blood cancers, according to scientists. Ecstasy is known to kill some cancer cells, but scientists have increased its effectiveness 100-fold, they said in Investigational New Drugs journal.Their early study showed all leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma cells could be killed in a test tube, but any treatment would be a decade away.
A charity said the findings were a “significant step forward”.
In 2006, a research team at the University of Birmingham showed that ecstasy and anti-depressants such as Prozac had the potential to stop cancers growing.
The problem was that it needed doses so high they would have been fatal if given to people.
The researchers, in collaboration with the University of Western Australia, have chemically re-engineered ecstasy by taking some atoms away and putting new ones in their place.
One variant increased cancer-fighting effectiveness 100-fold. It means that if 100g of un-modified ecstasy was needed to get the desired effect, only 1g of the modified ecstasy would be needed to have the same effect.
Scientists say this also reduced the toxic effect on the brain.
Lead researcher Professor John Gordon, from the University of Birmingham, told the BBC: “Against the cancers, particularly the leukaemia, the lymphoma and the myeloma, where we’ve tested these new compounds we can wipe out 100% of the cancer cells in some cases.