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Surprising Science

Can Ecstasy Treat Cancer?

Modified ecstasy could one day have a role to play in fighting some blood cancers, according to scientists. The drug is already known to effectively kill cancer cells isolated in test tubes.

What’s the Latest Development?

Already known to be a potent weapon in the fight against cancer, the effectiveness of the drug ecstasy has been modified 100-fold by British and Australian scientists. The lead researcher of the study, professor John Gordon of the University of Birmingham, said: “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.” Scientists think the drug is attracted to the fat in the membranes of cancer cells.

What’s the Big Idea?

Previously, the dose of ecstasy needed to kill cancer cells was also enough to kill the human body. But a 100-fold increase in effectiveness means that if 100 grams of un-modified ecstasy was needed to achieve good results, just 1 gram of modified ecstasy will have the same effect. But despite these early test results, doctors are not about to start prescribing ecstasy pills to cancer patients. Any treatment to take advantage of modified ecstasy is at least a decade away, says the B.B.C.’s James Gallagher.


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