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.

So there you have it! You can find the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast on iTunes, Zune and the RSS feed. And don't forget the free HowStuffWorks App!

Skull still intact? Follow Stuff to Blow Your Mind on Twitter and Facebook.