An Ottawa researcher and his team are setting out to change the way doctors treat cancer with a potentially groundbreaking treatment that's expected to begin clinical trials in the Capital as early as next month.

Dr. John Bell and his team of researchers have developed the treatment by engineering a virus to kill cancer cells and then inject it directly into a tumor.

"Viruses are little parasites that grow in us all the time and because we understand their genetics we can convert them into little machines . . . that we actually can use to attack cancer specifically," Bell told CTV Ottawa on Tuesday.

Patients survive longer than expected

Bell's research is vastly different than current radiation and chemotherapy treatments and is attracting global attention.

Out of 14 terminally ill patients to be treated, 10 people have survived longer than expected.

"In 70 per cent of them, they had response to the viruses and many of them had long term survival in that they lived probably about four to five times their life expectancy and some are still alive today," said Bell.

Potentially groundbreaking

Scientists working alongside the researcher say the treatment has the potential to be groundbreaking.

"I'd like something to cure people. Cancer care has come a long way but there's still a need to have better treatment, more effective treatment," said Dr. Harry Atkins.

"I and my colleagues all believe that this is an approach that really has a chance to make a difference in cancer patients' lives and so we're pushing it forward," said Bell.

Clinical trials

The next two phases of the clinical trials are already underway in the United States and are expected to cost up to $100 million.

Pending Health Canada approval, clinical trials will begin in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton and Calgary next month.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Catherine Lathem