Ecstasy and…myeloma?

Today I’m going to introduce a rather bizarre topic…a recent discovery concerning the surprising anticancer properties of a terribly dangerous hallucinogenic drug, which here in Italy is still, unfortunately!, immensely popular in discotheques and dance clubs among young folks, mainly because it gives them a crazy sense of euphoria, brushing aside any feelings they might have of anxiety and fatigue, which means they can spend several hours dancing and having “fun” (!) without stopping…The common name of this awful, dangerous drug is “ecstasy.”

Here in Italy those young disco-going, ecstasy-taking Italians dance all night and then, in the early morning hours, get into their cars all confused and dizzy, frequently causing accidents. Deadly accidents. It happens almost every Saturday. Well, there is a lot of info online about this terrible drug, which has very serious short-term AND long-term effects…from blurred vision to strokes. But harping on drugs is not the point of my post today…

The point is: what does ecstasy have to do with myeloma? Well, some of our MM, MGUS and SMM support group members on Facebook have recently brought up and discussed the results of a recent ecstasy/cancer study (as you may know, I am a co-administer of that support group, see FB link on right-hand side of blog). Today, after Beth A.’s comment (yesterday’s post), I decided to give it a go…

First, have a look at this “Time” article: http://goo.gl/lAVbl Please note the following sentence: the dose of ecstasy needed to fight cancer would have to be so large, it would kill the patient. No comment needed…!!!

However, the article notes that a University of Birmingham team has recently developed and tested two ecstasy analogues. And their lab tests show that these compounds can KILL blood cancer cells, including myeloma ones. Now, before getting too excited about all this, let’s not forget that so far this team has been working with CELLS. So these are in vitro tests only…

Moving on to another, possibly related (?) topic…The “Time” article discussion concerning neurotransmitters reminded me of something I’d written about in 2008. About curcumin. See my September 12 2008 post: http://goo.gl/mJSnu

I have no idea if the antidepressant effect of curcumin can be linked in any way to the recent discovery made by the Birmingham team, but here goes anyway…In 2005, a team of Chinese researchers discovered that the chronic administration of curcumin had an antidepressant effect on rats. Curcumin, they found, increases the levels of serotonin in the brain, and it affects brain dopamine levels, thereby reducing depression…See my post for more details and links to the studies…

Now, let’s go back for a second to the “Times” article where we can read the following: Intriguingly, receptors for serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters aren’t found just in the brain–they’re also located on immune cells. WHAAAT?!!! They’re located on IMMUNE cells? Intriguing(ly), indeed! 🙂 Since I’m not a scientist, though, I find myself unable to put together the pieces of this puzzle. All I have is a hunch. Not enough. And so I find myself forced to move on…drat…drat…drat…(Comments welcome, as usual!)

Okay, now for another interesting titbit. This morning I discovered that a clinical trial testing curcumin together with Prozac (scientific name: fluoxetine) was completed last year: http://goo.gl/1D1F8

That was particularly…intriguing to me since, as the “Time” article tells us, the Birmingham “ecstasy” researchers […] patented the new cancer indication and tried to get pharmaceutical companies to fund clinical trials of fluoxetine. Unfortunately, none were interested. Prozac can be obtained so cheaply, now that it’s off patent, that if even the drug were approved for the cancer indication, it wouldn’t be profitable.

Not profitable? Hmmm, now, where have we heard THAT before? 🙂 And, surprise surprise, the clinical trial testing curcumin and Prozac took place in…India.

Case closed…

To be honest, today I don’t have the energy or the desire to launch into another tirade against the medical status quo and/or the evils brought to us by profit-chasing big pharma. I’d just like to point out that if you log onto Pubmed you will find several recent studies on the antidepressant effects of curcumin, such as this 2011 one: http://goo.gl/8u6JF And, if you are feeling brave enough, you can go read this full scientific study about curcumin and depression: http://goo.gl/qtwdf

In conclusion, it’s simply too early to tell what these ecstasy analogues might mean for us myeloma folks…

Just my opinion, as usual…

3 Comments

  1. Margaret, do university and clinical researchers ever take up the slack on these studies – like the MMRF and the IMF – they do their own fundraising. I know they then rely on the pharm industry to MAKE and MARKET the drugs, but you’d think they might be doing studies themselves on some of the more promising low-cost options…

  2. school

    margaret – thanks for another post on what’s going on in yet another arena of myeloma research. i think your recall of earlier possible connections of curcumin and an anti-depressanr effect is intriguing, but understand why your head must be spinning with the additional posits about the immune sysatem link. oy vey! karen

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