Scientists are saying that ecstasy-an illegal drug largely connected with hardcore clubgoers-can actually treat several forms of cancer.
However, a market-ready medication doctors can prescribe to patients may take another ten years to develop, researchers told BBC Radio.
"This is an exciting next step," said Professor John Gordon, lead author of a groundbreaking study on the topic, during a radio interview.
"Where we've tested these new compounds, we can wipe out 100% of the cancer cells in some cases."
Birmingham University researchers first discovered the unlikely link between the illegal substance and a viable therapy for common blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma in 2006. Additional research produced an atomically tweaked version of ecstasy's active compound, MDMA, which bolsters the drug's cancer-fighting power 100-fold in test tubes.
The original 2006 study found a fatally large dose of MDMA would be needed to make a dent in the disease. But the Birmingham team, toiling for five years along with scientists from The University of Western Australia, found a way to maximize MDMA's cancer-fighting properties, while minimizing its toxic effect on the brain.
This is how it works: The drug attaches itself to the fat in diseased cells, weakening the membrane and making them "soapy."
The cancer cells are then essentially washed away, Gordon said.
The news is "genuinely exciting," said Dr. David Grant, director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Research charity.
"Further work is required but this research is a significant step forward in developing a potential new cancer drug," he said.