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A University of Birmingham team found that drugs such as Ecstasy, weight-loss pills, and anti-depressants like Prozac have the potential to stop cancer cell growth. The team found that the drugs were effective at blocking cancer growth in more than half of lymphoma (white blood cell cancer) samples tested. The study could lead to new cancer therapies.

Cancer growth was slowed down in 9 out of the 17 samples when they were exposed to anti-depressants, and in 11 out of 17 when exposed to one or both of the amphetamine derivatives. The research was supported by the Leukaemia Research Fund.

Professor John Gordon said: "We think that a range of psychotropic agents that are being used, or sometimes abused, for other reasons will now help us in our fight against all different types of cancer. We are excited that drugs like Prozac are effective in killing these types of cancer cells, as these antidepressants are in such wide circulation and have an impressive safety record."

Ecstasy, on the other hand, was not so straightforward - the dose required to block cancer growth was so high it would kill the patient. Dr Nick Barnes, who also worked on the study, said he was still hopeful of Ecstasy's potential to combat cancer. "Perhaps by breaking down the actions of this designer drug we can extract its cancer killing properties..."

Dr David Grant welcomed the findings by saying: "Around 10,000 people are diagnosed with a lymphoma in the UK each year and so the possibility that some of these patients can be treated with anti-depressants that have cancer-killing properties is truly remarkable. Clearly there is a lot more work to do before this becomes a reality but it is very exciting that there may be other, much less aggressive ways, of treating this particular cancer."
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