Modified forms of the drug ecstasy may be effective against deadly cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma according to researchers from the University of Birmingham.

The Birmingham team, which in 2006 proved the potential of ecstasy and anti-depressants such as Prozac for slowing down cancer, announced they have managed to increase the effectiveness of ecstasy 100-fold.

Increasing the effectiveness could bring a cure forward several years as it overcomes a previous problem where the doses required would have been fatally high before they had any effect.

The researchers, in collaboration with the University of Western Australia, chemically re-engineered ecstasy by shuffling atoms and putting new ones in their place.

The results, which have only been demonstrated in test tubes thus far, would need to be confirmed in animal and human studies before a prescription drug can be considered, the researchers said.

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