News of World Medicine

"Ecstasy" may win a victory over blood cancer

Popular recreational narcotic ecstasy (MDMA) may become the basis for a new type of medicines for treatment of oncological blood diseases.Previous investigations have shown that "ecstasy" kills some tumor cells. Now a group of scientists have managed to increase this anti-tumor effectiveness of MDMA combinations 100-folds.

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine) is the official name of "ecstasy", a semisynthetic psychoactive amphetamine compound, which belongs to the group of phenylethylamines. Preliminary studies have demonstrated that in laboratory conditions all cells of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma died in vitro in case of MDMA compound introduction.

As far back as 2006, a group of researchers in the University of Birmingham found that "ecstasy" and antidepressant fluoxetine were able to stop the growth of tumor cells.

The difficulty consisted in the fact that it required such a high concentration of medicinal preparations that it would be a lethal one for a human.

The same researchers in cooperation with the University of Western Australia have managed to modify chemical formula of MDMA.

This new compound turned out to be 100-folds more toxic for tumor cells. It means that the dose to be introduced to the patient can be reduced significantly. At the same time it was established that its toxic influence on the brain was also reduced significantly.

MDMA molecule underwent serious modification due to introduction of new atoms. The head of the group of scientists, Professor John Gordon said: "In vitro 100% of cells of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma died after introduction of the new compound. We still do not know what will happen if it is used in clinical conditions". Scientists think that molecules of the compound stick to fatty membranes of tumor cells.

They dissolve fat in these membranes, which lead to the death of a tumor cell. At the same time, this compound does not react with the same power to healthy cells.

However, in the nearest future doctors will not prescribe "ecstasy" to tumor patients. Years of animal studies and clinical studies lie in wait for the scientists before new MDMA-based medicinal preparations appear. 

Adopted from: BBC