Ecstasy could be used to treat cancers of the blood, according to scientists.
Modified versions of the dance club drug may help to fight leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
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Six years ago researchers found that cancers affecting white blood cells responded to psychotropic drugs including ecstasy, weight-loss pills and anti-depressants.
The University of Birmingham team has now adapted ecstasy to be 100 times deadlier to cancerous cells.
Further work could lead to ecstasy, which is an amphetamine derivative properly known as MDMA, being trialled on patients.
Dr David Grant, of the charity Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, which helped fund the study, said: ‘The prospect of being able to target blood cancer with a drug derived from ecstasy is genuinely exciting. This is a significant step.’
Professor John Gordon, from the university’s School of Immunology and Infection, said it was ‘an exciting step’, adding: ‘The results hold the potential for improvements in treatments in years to come.’
He said the scientists had their work cut out adapting ecstasy. Research showed that the dose needed to treat a tumour was fatal, so they had to isolate its cancer-killing properties.
In a report in the journal Investigational New Drugs, Professor Gordon said his team was looking at ways to help MDMA molecules penetrate cancer cell walls more easily.
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