London: Modified Ecstasy Developed As Cancer Treatment Drug

19 Aug

Ecstasy is being developed as a potential cancer treatment by a UK university.

  Ecstasy - Modified form may fight blood cancers
Ecstasy – Modified form may fight blood cancers

Ecstasy is being developed as a potential cancer treatment, it was revealed today.

Modified forms of the dance club drug may be effective against blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma, early research suggests.

Six years ago scientists found that cancers affecting white blood cells appeared to respond to certain ‘psychotropic’ drugs.

These included weight loss pills, Prozac-type antidepressants, and amphetamine derivatives such as MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy.

The same team at the University of Birmingham revealed that specially modified forms of ecstasy boosted the drug’s ability to destroy cancerous cells 100 times.

Further work could lead to MDMA-derivatives being used in patient trials.

Professor John Gordon, from the university’s School of Immunology and Infection, said: ‘This is an exciting next step towards using a modified form of MDMA to help people suffering from blood cancer.

‘While we would not wish to give people false hope, the results of this research hold the potential for improvements in treatments in years to come.’

Adapting ecstasy for use as a cancer drug initially presented serious problems.

Research showed that the dose of MDMA needed to treat a tumour would prove fatal to the patient. To overcome this obstacle, the scientists set about isolating the drug’s cancer-killing properties.

The new findings are published in the journal Investigational New Drugs.

Prof Gordon said the researchers were looking at ways to help MDMA molecules penetrate cancer cell walls more easily.

He added: ‘We can theoretically make even more potent analogues of MDMA.’

Dr David Grant, scientific director of the charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, which part funded the study, said: ‘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.’

NEWS UPDATE:

A modified version of MDMA – commonly known as ecstasy – could help with treatment for blood cancer, scientists have claimed.

Newly-published research from scientists at the University of Birmingham shows significant success in “redesigning the designer drug” for potential use as a cancer-killing agent in the treatment of leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

The new work builds on the scientists’ discovery six years ago that more than half of the cancers in white blood cells they looked at responded in the test tube to the growth-suppressing properties of psychotropic drugs.

These included amphetamine derivatives such as ecstasy and weight-loss pills and anti-depressants such as fluoxetine, the generic term for prozac.

At the time, the team stressed that translating their laboratory findings into a useable clinical compound would present significant problems, not least because the dose of MDMA required to treat a cancerous tumour would have proved fatal to the patient.

The team from Birmingham has been working with researchers from the University of Western Australia who produced the new compounds for them.

Lead author Professor John Gordon 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.

He added: “This is an exciting next step towards using a modified form of MDMA to help people suffering from blood cancer. 

“While we would not wish to give people false hope, the results of this research hold the potential for improvement in treatments in years to come.”

Dr David Grant, of the national charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research , which part-funded the research, said: “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.”

The team now hopes to go on to develop pre-clinical studies.

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