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;
  • Senior Scientist, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Research interests

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

Select publications

Bourgeois-Daigneault MC, Roy DG, Aitken AS, El Sayes N, Martin NT, Varette O, Falls T, St-Germain LE, Pelin A, Lichty BD, Stojdl DF, Ungerechts G, Diallo JS, Bell JC.
Neoadjuvant oncolytic virotherapy before surgery sensitizes triple-negative breast cancer to immune checkpoint therapy.
Sci Transl Med. 2018;10(422).

Selman M, Ou P, Rousso C, Bergeron A, Krishnan R, Pikor L, Chen A, Keller BA, Ilkow C, Bell JC, Diallo JS.
Dimethyl fumarate potentiates oncolytic virotherapy through NF-κB inhibition.
Sci Transl Med. 2018;10(425).

Twumasi-Boateng K, Pettigrew JL, Kwok YYE, Bell JC, Nelson BH.
Oncolytic viruses as engineering platforms for combination immunotherapy.
Nat Rev Cancer. 2018;18(7):419-432.

Kim M, Nitschké M, Sennino B, Murer P, Schriver BJ, Bell A, Subramanian A, McDonald CE, Wang J, Cha H, Bourgeois-Daigneault MC, Kirn DH, Bell JC, De Silva N, Breitbach CJ, McDonald DM.
Amplification of Oncolytic Vaccinia Virus Widespread Tumor Cell Killing by Sunitinib through Multiple Mechanisms.
Cancer Res. 2018;78(4):922-937.

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.
Cancer Cell. 2015;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.
Nat Med. 2015;21(5):530-6.

See Dr. Bell’s recent publications on PubMed or on Google Scholar.

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.

Related links

The Ottawa Hospital, Bell Lab

The Ottawa Hospital Researcher Profile – Dr. John Bell

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.

Visit OICR’s Collaborative Research Resources directory for more opportunities to collaborate with OICR researchers.


Patty Lidster