Dr. John Bell

Co-leader, Immuno-oncology TRI (ACTION)

Using viruses to kill cancer cells is a promising alternative to chemotherapy because it dramatically reduces the toxicity of treatment. Viruses are able to infect cells, replicate, induce cell death, release viral particles and spread through human tissues, making them an ideal weapon against cancer. Dr. Bell’s lab has shown that a variety of viruses selectively replicate in and kill cancer cell lines while leaving healthy parts of the body intact. The lab is currently seeking to understand the mechanisms by which viruses selectively target cancer cells using gene editing techniques like CRISPR. Using this information they are developing novel oncolytic virus products based upon rhabdovirus and vaccinia virus platforms. Their new virus products are able to simultaneously kill cancer cells while stimulating anti-tumour immunity. His group has developed manufacturing processes in order to produce pharmaceutical grade viruses that have been tested in clinical studies around the world.

Current affiliations

  • Co-leader, OICR Immuno-oncology TRI (ACTION);
  • Scientific Director, BioCanRx Network Centre of Excellence;
  • Professor, Medicine, University of Ottawa.Career Scientist, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Research interests

  • Immunotherapy;
  • Oncolytic virus therapy;
  • minION;
  • Lentivirus;
  • Manufacturing;
  • Cell therapy;
  • Exosomes;
  • microRNA;
  • Tumour microenvironment.

Select publications

Arulanandam R, Batenchuk C, Angarita FA, Ottolino-Perry K, Cousineau S, Mottashed A, Burgess E, Falls TJ, De Silva N, Tsang J, Howe GA, Bourgeois-Daigneault MC, Conrad DP, Daneshmand M, Breitbach CJ, Kirn DH, Raptis L, Sad S, Atkins H, Huh MS, Diallo JS, Lichty BD, Ilkow CS, Le Boeuf F, Addison CL, McCart JA, Bell JC.
VEGF-Mediated Induction of PRD1-BF1/Blimp1 Expression Sensitizes Tumor Vasculature to Oncolytic Virus Infection. (2015)
Cancer Cell 28(2):210-24

Ilkow CS, Marguerie M, Batenchuk C, Mayer J, Ben Neriah D, Cousineau S, Falls T, Jennings VA, Boileau M, Bellamy D, Bastin D, de Souza CT, Alkayyal A, Zhang J, Le Boeuf F, Arulanandam R, Stubbert L, Sampath P, Thorne SH, Paramanthan P, Chatterjee A, Strieter RM, Burdick M, Addison CL, Stojdl DF, Atkins HL, Auer RC, Diallo JS, Lichty BD, Bell JC.
Reciprocal cellular cross-talk within the tumor microenvironment promotes oncolytic virus activity. (2015)
Nature Medicine 21(5):530-6

Lichty BD, Breitbach CJ, Stojdl DF, Bell JC.
Going viral with cancer immunotherapy. (2014)
Nature Reviews Cancer. (8):559-67

Bourgeois-Daigneault MC, St-Germain LE, Roy DG, Pelin A, Aitken AS, Arulanandam R, Falls T, Garcia V, Diallo JS, Bell JC.
Combination of Paclitaxel and MG1 oncolytic virus as a successful strategy for breast cancer treatment. (2016)
Breast Cancer Research 18(1):83.

Dornan MH, Krishnan R, Macklin AM, Selman M, El Sayes N, Son HH, Davis C, Chen A, Keillor K, Le PJ, Moi C, Ou P, Pardin C, Canez CR, Le Boeuf F, Bell JC, Smith JC, Diallo JS, Boddy CN.
First-in-class small molecule potentiators of cancer virotherapy. (2016)
Science Reports. 6:26786.

Previous experience

  • Program Director, Immuno- and Bio-Therapies, OICR;
  • Assistant Professor Biochemistry, McGill University;
  • Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Gordon Foulkes, Medical Research Council;
  • Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Mike McBurney, University of Ottawa;
  • PhD, Virology, McMaster University, Hamilton.

Opportunities to collaborate

Bell highly values collaborative efforts to rapidly solve challenging problems. He strongly encourages collaborations in his own research group and currently leads a number of team-focused efforts including a trans-Canadian Program Project Grant supported by the Terry Fox Foundation, a Prostate Cancer Canada Team Grant, the BioCanRx Network Centre of Excellence as well as the OICR Immuno and Bio-therapies Program. His research team has expertise in molecular biology, virology and immunology as well as access to a manufacturing facility that produces pharmaceutical grade biological products. The team is always looking for and welcomes any collaborative projects particularly in the area of biological and immune therapies for cancer.

Related links


Patty Lidster