The Group’s research is focused on the pathogenesis and treatment of chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. We’re acknowledged as world leaders in the areas of pancreatic fibrogenesis, alcoholic pancreatitis and stromal-tumour interactions in pancreatic cancer.  

Our goals

  • Understanding the molecular mechanisms mediating pancreatic injury/chronic pancreatitis due to smoking and alcohol abuse, to develop novel treatment approaches for this disease.
  • Characterising stromal-tumour interactions in pancreatic cancer and identifying specific molecular pathways that can be therapeutically targeted to inhibit cancer progression.
  • Explaining the role of stromal cells and cancer cells in impairing islet cell function in pancreatic cancer-related diabetes, in order to identify potential biomarkers for early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Research strengths

  • First in the world to isolate and characterise Pancreatic Stellate Cells (PSCs), now established as key producers of fibrosis in chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
  • The ‘Go to’ lab nationally and internationally for PSC biology. 
  • First to establish role of PSCs in inducing pancreatic cancer progression via stromal-tumour interactions.
  • Clinically relevant animal models of alcohol- and smoking-induced pancreatitis. 
  • Clinically relevant models of early, advanced and adjuvant settings of pancreatic cancer using human cancer cells and human PSCs.

Our results

  • Publications cited >10,500 times; Field weighted citation index (FWCI) 4.99.
  • Consistent competitive grant funding success.
  • Highly successful PhD, Masters and BSc/BMedSci Honours completions.
  • Establishment of novel model of alcohol and smoking-related pancreatitis resulted in invitation to collaborate with UCLA, Stanford University and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on a US$10 million program grant (2019-2024).
  • Results showing that combining a chemotherapeutic agent with inhibition of a specific pathway mediating stromal-tumour interactions reduces tumour growth and virtually eliminates metastasis in clinically compatible pre-clinical models. This has led to Industry collaboration  to commence a clinical trial of this novel approach.
  • Prof. Apte awarded the Distinguished Researcher Prize by the Gastroenterological Society of Australia in 2018, the highest research award given by the premier national association for gastroenterologists. 
  • Prof. Apte made a Fellow of the prestigious Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS) in 2019, in recognition of her research achievements in the field.  

Our experts

Our affiliated partners

Collaborations with researchers at:

  • University of Sydney 
  • University of Melbourne 
  • University of Wollongong 
  • Curtin University
  • University of Heidelberg 
  • UCLA
  • University of Minnesota 
  • Northwestern University 
  • University of Southampton 
  • Stanford University 
  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center  
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center