Ecstasy Drug to Fight Cancer

MDMA in its Ecstasy street form. (Michael Lorenzini/Photographer's Choice/Getty)

First invented in 1914 by a Mereck pharmaceutical researcher, MDMA or Ecstasy started out as a mere chemical catalyst. It sat on the shelf for decades till the 1970s, when a Dow Chemical employee rediscovered the drug and its powerful euphoric effects on the human mind. The early 1980s saw its brief therapeutic use by psychiatrists. By 1985, however, the drug was outlawed in the United States.

Ecstasy has remained an illegal club drug ever since, but now BBC News reports that MDMA may transform into a crucial cancer-fighting drug by 2021. We've known since 2006 that Ecstasy and antidepressants like Prozac have the potential to stop cancer cells. The catch? In order to kill cancer cells you'd have to drop an absurd amount of Ecstasy -- as in a lethal overdose.

But now researchers from the University of Birmingham and the University of Western Australia have managed tweak ecstasy at the atomic level, swapping out some of the atoms in its chemical composition to increase it's cancer-fighting power by a factor of 100. To put that in perspective, that means a single tablet of modified Ecstasy would have as much cancer-fighting power as 100 tablets without boosting the unwanted effects of the drug.

Read the full article (with audio interview) for more information. Plus, read Josh Clark's "Will there ever be a 'happy pill?'" for more information on MDMA/Ecstasy.

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About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.