(CBS) The popular recreational drug MDMA is famous for fostering intimacy and euphoria - no wonder it's better known as Ecstasy. Now English scientists say Ecstasy may hold the key to better treatments for deadly blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
The anticancer effects of Ecstasy, Prozac, and and other psychoactive drugs have long been known. The new wrinkle is that a study published online in the journal Investigational New Drugs has shown that a modified form of Ecstasy packs 100 times the cancer-busting power of the drug itself.
The study demonstrated that "analogues" of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) easily get inside cancer cells and possibly start "dissolving" them, according to a written statement released by the University of Birmingham, where the research was conducted.
Blood cancer experts greeted the finding with enthusiasm, if not outright euphoria.
"Many types of lymphoma remain hard to treat and non-toxic drugs which are both effective and have few side effects are desperately needed," Dr. David Grant, scientific director of the English charity organization Leukemia & Lymphoma Research, said in the statement. "Further work is required but this research is a significant step forward in developing a potential new cancer drug."
The team plans to go on to develop clinical trials of the MDMA analog. But already people are asking whether the drug would make cancer patients high. Preliminary evidence suggests it wouldn't, Time's Healthland blog reported. But even if it did, patients battling a potentially lethal disease might not be quick to complain about having feelings of tranquility and intimacy.
As Dr. Gordon told Time, "You could have worse side effects."
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has more on Ecstasy.