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Research on viral therapy for cancer research gets $6.5M boost

May 18, 2017


Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa will play a lead role in cutting-edge research on viral therapy for cancer, thanks to three new peer-reviewed research grants from BioCanRx and partners worth $6.5 million.

Project summaries

Boosting production of cancer-fighting viruses

A team led by Dr. Jean-Simon Diallo will create a more efficient way to grow the viruses used in the production of experimental viral therapies and CAR T-cells for cancer treatment. The current process is hard to scale up to meet possible future demand. Dr. Diallo’s group recently discovered a group of small molecules called viral sensitizers that can boost virus production up to 1,000-fold. They will use these molecules to create a highly productive manufacturing process for these clinically important viruses.


  • Key Investigator

    • Jean-Simon Diallo (The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa)


  • Investigators

    • Dr. Guy Ungerechts (The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa

    • Dr. John Bell (The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa)

    • Dr. Jonathan Bramson (McMaster University)

    • Dr. Brian Lichty (McMaster University, Turnstone Biologics)



• Funding: $399,800 from BioCanRx, Ontario Research Fund Alliance for Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Innovation, Prostate Cancer Canada – Movember Team grant, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

Testing immunotherapy and cancer-fighting viruses in models of ovarian cancer

A team led by Dr. Barbara Vanderhyden will test whether the gene Fibrinogen-like 2 (FGL2) could be a possible target in the fight against ovarian cancer. The team predicts that blocking the activity of FGL2 will improve the immune system’s ability to attack the tumour. They will use animal models to see if either FGL2 treatments alone or in combination with the cancer-fighting virus Maraba MG1 can shrink ovarian cancer tumours.


  • Key Investigator

    • Barbara Vanderhyden (The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa)


  • Investigators

    • Dr. Carolina Ilkow (The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa)

    • Dr. Gary Levy (Toronto General Research Institute)



• Funding: $157,992 from BioCanRx, Ovarian Cancer Canada, Ottawa District 2 Freemasons, University of Ottawa, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

Clinical trial of viral therapy for HPV-associated cancer

Researchers from Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto will work together on a clinical trial using viral therapy to treat human papilloma virus (HPV)-associated cancers. HPV accounts for about five percent of the world’s cancer burden, and causes cervical and head and neck cancers. This clinical trial will test the safety and cancer-fighting ability of a viral vaccine (Ad/MG1-E6E7) in patients with advanced HPV-associated cancers who have no other treatment options. Further details will be available once the trial launches.


  • Key Investigators:

    • Dr. Guy Ungerechts (The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa)

    • Dr. John Bell (The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa)

    • Dr. Brian Lichty (McMaster University, Turnstone Biologics)


  • Investigators:


    • Dr. Amit Oza (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre)

    • Dr. Jonathan Bramson (McMaster University)

    • Dr. Hal Hirte (McMaster University)

    • Dr. Sebastien Hotte (McMaster University, Juravinski Cancer Centre)

    • Dr. Gregory Pond (McMaster University, Juravinski Cancer Centre)

    • Dr. Caroline Breitbach (Turnstone Biologics)

    • Dr. Chantal Lemay (Turnstone Biologics)



• Funding: Total of $6 million, with $5.2 million from Turnstone Biologics and $0.8 million from BioCanRx.

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


Amelia Buchanan
Senior Communication Specialist
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Office: 613-798-5555 x 73687
Cell: 613-297-8315
ambuchanan@ohri.ca