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Ottawa cancer researchers to play lead role in new immunotherapy initiative, worth $4 million

May 25, 2017

The Ontario Institute of Cancer Research (OICR) has awarded $4 million to a team of researchers working to harness the immune system to attack cancer. Called cancer immunotherapy, this area of research was dubbed “breakthrough of the year” by Science in 2013 and has been growing ever since. It can involve the use of drugs, cells and viruses to target many different kinds of cancer.

The grant is one of five new OICR Translational Research Initiatives announced today by Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. It is co-led by Dr. John Bell of The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa and Dr. Marcus Butler of the University Health Network and the University of Toronto.

“Immunotherapy is very exciting because it has the potential to completely eliminate even advanced cancers, but it doesn’t work for everyone,” said Dr. John Bell. “This new funding will help us test some innovative new strategies, both in the laboratory and the clinic, so that we can continue to refine this approach and hopefully help many more people.”

The funding will support:


In addition to Drs. Bell and Butler, the project also involves Drs. Rebecca Auer, Guy Ungerechts, David Stojdl, Jonathan Bramson, Rosalyn Juergens, Brian Lichty, Pamela Ohashi, Martin Yaffe, Naoto Hirano, Phillip Awadalla, David Brooks and Tracy McGaha.

Dr. Stojdl of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the University of Ottawa was also awarded funding for a separate project in this competition, related to brain cancer.

Dr. Bell (pictured above) is a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. He is also the Scientific Director of BioCanRx and a co-founder of Turnstone Biologics.

Turnstone Biologics is the sponsor and primary funder for the clinical trials noted above.

The Ottawa Hospital: Inspired by research. Driven by compassion


The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals with over 1,100 beds, approximately 12,000 staff and an annual budget of over $1.2 billion. Our focus on research and learning helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region, but our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care. See www.ohri.ca for more information about research at The Ottawa Hospital.

University of Ottawa: —A crossroads of cultures and ideas


The University of Ottawa is home to over 50,000 students, faculty and staff, who live, work and study in both French and English. Our campus is a crossroads of cultures and ideas, where bold minds come together to inspire game-changing ideas. We are one of Canada’s top 10 research universities—our professors and researchers explore new approaches to today’s challenges. One of a handful of Canadian universities ranked among the top 200 in the world, we attract exceptional thinkers and welcome diverse perspectives from across the globe. www.uottawa.ca

Media Contact


Jennifer Ganton
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Office: 613-798-5555 x 73325
Cell: 613-614-5253
jganton@ohri.ca