Powerful form of ecstasy drug kills blood cancer cells
RESEARCHERS AT the University of Birmingham have identified a new form of ecstasy that kills blood cancer cells in a test-tube within 24 hours.
When the drug attaches to the cancer it causes the cells to self-destruct. It is a “clean way of destroying the cancer” said John Gordon, professor of cellular immunity at the University of Birmingham.
“The cells kill themselves and all the bad parts are naturally removed, so there are less side-effects compared to chemotherapy, for example.”
Collaborating with scientists at the University of Western Australia, the Birmingham team identified a version of the ecstasy drug that is 100 times more powerful than the recreational version. The work is published in Investigational New Drugs.
The amount of ecstasy needed to treat cancer would be enough to kill a person, so the drug had to be modified. The team had to “redesign the designer drug”, Prof Gordon said.
Preliminary work suggests the new modified drug causes fewer nasty side-effects which ecstasy-users experience, including neurotoxicity.
“The prospect of being able to target blood cancer with a drug derived from ecstasy is a genuinely exciting proposition,” said Dr David Grant, scientific director of the charity Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, which part-funded the study.
The link between ecstasy and cancer was discovered more than six years ago, when Prof Gordon’s group saw the blood cancers were making very similar chemicals to the ones ecstasy targets in the brain.
The new version of the drug they have created is extremely efficient at attacking the cancer.
“Further work is required but this research is a significant step forward in developing a potential new cancer drug,” Dr Grant said.