Virus vs. Prostate Cancer: Canadian Researchers Pioneer Next-generation Therapy

Prostate Cancer Canada and the Movember Foundation partner to make innovative work possible

Toronto –September 30, 2015 – A multi-disciplinary team of scientists and clinicians led by Dr. John Bell of The Ottawa Hospital is developing a treatment for prostate cancer using viruses that destroy cancer cells and boost the anti-cancer immune response, all the while leaving normal cells unharmed. Identified and awarded by Prostate Cancer Canada and funded by the Movember Foundation, the team will receive $5 million through to 2020.  

The Movember Foundation funding granted through Prostate Cancer Canada will support research on a specific viral therapy for prostate cancer, one based on leveraging the fact that many cancer cells have weak anti-viral defense mechanisms.

“When normal cells become cancerous, they acquire genetic mutations that allow them to grow very quickly, but these same genetic mutations also make them more susceptible to viruses,” explains Dr. John Bell, who is also affiliated with the University of Ottawa. “These mutations cause cancer cells to lose the natural protection against viruses that normal cells have, making them more susceptible to infection,” Bell adds. “While tumour-killing viruses destroy cancer cells directly during the infection process, they also alert the immune system to mount an attack against the tumour.”
The idea of using viruses to treat cancer has been around for more than a century with sporadic reports of cancer patients experiencing remarkable recoveries after viral infections. However, it is only recently that viral therapies are being developed and tested rigorously.
Dr. John Bell, along with Dr. Brian Lichty (McMaster University), Dr. Dave Stojdl (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, University of Ottawa) and Dr. Jean Simon Diallo (The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa) are world leaders in the development of viral therapies. This team has been selected by Prostate Cancer Canada to receive five-year funding from Movember to develop a viral therapy customized to treat prostate cancer.
While viral therapies have shown promise in laboratory studies , they are experimental and in early clinical testing. As the research advances, the team aims to offer a clinical trial to patients whose prostate cancer has spread and become resistant to conventional treatment.
“By employing a rigorous review process with experts from around the world, we maximize the value of generous donor dollars by ensuring we’re not only investing in the top researchers, but also that we’re facilitating their collaboration towards a common goal,” said Rocco Rossi, Prostate Cancer Canada President and CEO. “The result is groundbreaking research such as this that provides the one in seven Canadian men and their families who will face a prostate cancer diagnosis in their lifetime with hope for a better tomorrow.”
“We are proud to be at the forefront of this collaborative research project that is bringing together some of Canada’s brightest minds in prostate cancer research,” said Claire Lamont, Country Director, Movember Canada. “Thanks to our fundraisers, donors and Prostate Cancer Canada this team grant is working hard to improve the lives of those men suffering from this disease.  Together we are changing the face of men’s health.”
The principal co-investigators are: John Bell, Brian Lichty, Dave Stojdl, Jean-Simon Diallo, Fred Saad, Sébastien Hotte, Rodney Breau.
The co-investigators are: Eric Belanger, Jonathan Bramson, Dean Fergusson, Andrea McCart, Yonghong Wan.
For more information about Virus vs. Prostate Cancer or to schedule an interview with Dr. Bell please contact:
Zandra Miljan
Senior Communications Advisor | Prostate Cancer Canada
Conseillère Principale des Communications | Cancer de la Prostate Canada
Office: 416-441-2131 ext./poste 264 | Mobile: 647-462-1886
About Prostate Cancer Canada:
Prostate Cancer Canada is the leading national foundation dedicated to the prevention of the most common cancer in men through research, advocacy, education, support and awareness. As one of the largest investors in prostate cancer research in Canada, Prostate Cancer Canada is committed to continuous discovery in the areas of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and support. For more information please visit or follow us on Twitter @ProstateCancerC or Facebook at Prostate Cancer Canada.
About The Ottawa Hospital
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.
About the Movember Foundation
The Movember Foundation is a global charity raising funds and awareness for men’s health. These funds deliver breakthrough research and support services to allow men to live happier, healthier, longer lives. Since 2003, millions have joined the men’s health movement, raising more than $676 million and funding over 1,000 projects through impact investments, focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity.
The Foundation runs awareness and fundraising activities year-round, with the annual Movember campaign in November being globally recognized for its fun and innovative approach to raising money and getting men to take action for their health. During Movember, we challenge men to grow a moustache or to make a commitment to get active and MOVE, both of which are about real action for health and are done to spark conversation and raise vital funds and awareness.
The Foundation’s vision is to have an everlasting impact on the state of men’s health. Movember is a registered charity in Canada - BN 848215604 RR0001. For more information visit

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