Modified ecstasy a cancer cell killer

No, the recent news regarding the club drug ecstasy and its possible anti-cancer benefits does not mean that in a decade or so B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients will be able to skip chemotherapy and instead attend raves.

Researchers however are reporting that they believe they have found an analogue of MDMA that could prove to be safe and effective in fighting the so-called blood cancers—the leukemias, lymphomas and myeloma. The analogue is modified from the original MDMA and significantly less toxic than its original form.

These analogues appear to be attracted to the fat found in the cell walls of blood cancers. They can then exploit the far content in order to gain access to the cell and consequently kill it. Naturally, researchers see this as a potential target for new treatments.

Readers should keep in mind that many different and interesting substances have been found to kill cancer cells in the lab. Very few from there can prove the same efficacy in lab mice, and an even smaller fraction prove safe and effective in humans. It is just as important to embrace the hope offered by this news as it is to embrace the reality that the media often overhypes such discoveries. Any potential benefits from this discovery of a modified MDMA's potential anti-cancer qualities would not likely be seen for several years, if not longer.

Wasik AM et al. "Enhancing the anti-lymphoma potential of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine ('ecstasy') through iterative chemical redesign: mechanisms and pathways to cell death." Investigational New Drugs.18 Aug 2011.

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