Cancer Research Program


The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top centres for cancer research, with 476 scientists, clinician investigators, trainees and staff working together to advance our understanding of cancer and make a difference for patients. Research spans the full spectrum from learning how cancer cells work at the molecular level, to developing and testing new treatment approaches, to moving evidence into practice. Thousands of patients are participating in more than 200 cancer clinical trials at our hospital.

The Cancer Research Program is led by Dr. Rebecca Auer (Program Director) and Dr. Ian Lorimer (Associate Program Director).

Key areas of research include:

Cancer biotherapeutics

Biologically based therapeutics, which include oncolytic viruses and immune cell therapies, are among the most promising cancer treatments to emerge over the last decade. While different biotherapeutics function in different ways, one thing they have in common is the ability to activate the body's natural defense mechanisms (the immune system) to attack cancer cells. Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital are leading the way in this area of research, with a number of world-first clinical trials and projects. Learn more about our research on cancer biotherapeutics and our Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre.

Precision medicine and molecular oncology

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital are at the forefront of precision medicine and molecular oncology, working collaboratively to develop innovative therapies that target cancer cells at the molecular level. These therapies have the potential to be much less toxic than traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Research activities range from discovering new molecular targets to developing biomarkers to leading national clinical trials. This research is enabled by the Molecular Oncology Diagnostics Laboratory and the Oncology Clinical Trials Office as well as various state-of-the-art Core Research Resources.

Pragmatic clinical trials and practice-changing research

The Ottawa Hospital is home to REthinking Clinical Trials (REaCT), the largest pragmatic cancer clinical trials program in the world. Unlike most cancer clinical trials, which are focused on evaluating experimental treatments in a very narrow patient population, REaCT trials compare standard approved treatments in a real-world setting with a broad range of patients. In this way, REaCT trials can efficiently answer some of the most important questions for cancer patients and the health care system. The Ottawa Methods Centre is a key resource enabling REaCT and other forms of practice-changing research.

Cancer disease groups

In addition to the broad cancer research platforms mentioned above, basic and clinical researchers are also working together to tackle specific kinds of cancer, including bladder cancer, blood cancer, brain cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, gastric cancer, gastrointestinal stromal tumours (gist), head and neck cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, soft tissue sarcoma, and thyroid cancer.