Invited Speakers

We're excited to bring together the following speakers as part of the APC and ASPAN programs for this year's joint conference. 


Invited Plenary Speakers.


Prof Aida Habtezion

Head Habtezion Lab
Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Stanford Medicine, Stanford, USA

Talk title: New insights into diabetes of the exocrine pancreas

The Habtezion lab aims to understand immune mechanisms and identify potential immune-based therapeutic targets for pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Her lab studies leukocyte trafficking and immune responses pertaining to the intestinal tract in states of both health and disease.

Dr. Habtezion obtained her medical degree from McMaster University, completed an Internal Medicine residency at the University of Western Ontario, a Gastroenterology Fellowship at the University of Toronto, and a post doctoral research fellowship at Stanford University. Her research is supported by foundation and National Institutes of Health grants.


Prof Christopher Heeschen

Head Stem Cell and Cancer Group
Adult Cancer Program
Lowy Cancer Research Centre
University of New South Wales, Australia

Talk title: Tracking and targeting pancreatic cancer stem cells

Prof Heeschen obtained his Medical Degree in 1997 from the Free University of Berlin (Germany) and his PhD in 2001 from Stanford University (USA). Prof Heeschen became an independent investigator in 2004 and in 2008 he moved to the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) as a founding member of the Clinical Research Programme. In 2013, he became the lead of the new Centre for Stem Cells in Cancer & Ageing at Barts Cancer Institute, London, UK. In March 2018, Prof Heeschen was recruited to UNSW under the SHARP program to establish his translational research programme at the Lowy Cancer Research Institute, Sydney. Building on his original discovery of pancreatic cancer stem cells and the heterogeneity therein, his lab is now working on newly identified key epigenetic and metabolic regulators of the stemness signalling network in cancer stem cells. 

Prof Heeschen has published more than 150 articles in prestigious scientific journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature Medicine, The Lancet, Cancer Cell, Cell Stem Cell, Journal of Experimental Medicine, and PNAS, among others. His work has been cited more than 26,000 times (GoogleScholar). Prof Heeschen has made major original contributions to the field of stem and vascular cell biology that have advanced our understanding of the basic processes of stem cell function and trafficking. His research has been recognised through numerous international awards and has earned him an ERC Advanced Investigator Grant for pancreatic cancer research.

Invited International Speakers.


A/Prof Max Petrov

Department of Surgery
University of Auckland
New Zealand

Talk title: New insights into diabetes of the exocrine pancreas

Associate Professor Petrov is an expert in diseases of the pancreas, metabolism, and nutrition. His group, called COSMOS, is recognised internationally for cutting-edge research and is a leading provider of translational, clinical, and epidemiological research training in diseases of the pancreas in Australasia. Associate Professor Petrov's research programme has resulted in over 130 articles in international peer-reviewed journals indexed in PubMed. His publications have been cited more than 5000 times and consistently receive at least 500 citations per year since 2013. In addition, Associate Professor Petrov has leadership roles in a number of University’s committees, New Zealand national boards, and international societies. He is Associate Editor of the Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology - official journal of the American College of Gastroenterology with an impact factor of 4.6, ranked 15 out of 80 journals in Gastroenterology & Hepatology.


A/Prof Anthony Phillips

The Applied Surgery and Metabolism Laboratory
Faculty of Science
University of Auckland
New Zealand

Talk title: A laboratory perspective on acute pancreatitis and multiple organ failure.

Anthony is an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences (SBS) and the Department of Surgery at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.  Currently he is the Academic Leader for the Biomedical and Applied Biology division in SBS as well as Director of the Applied Surgery and Metabolism Laboratory (ASML) in the Department of Surgery. The ASML is a cross-faculty research laboratory and training environment specifically dedicated to the support of surgeon’s undertaking PhD studies in basic science. In addition to this, Anthony has been involved with the preclinical and clinical development programs of new drugs within the biotechnology sector. He has research interests in the fields of pancreatitis, wound healing and lymphatic biology. His laboratory has a current research focus on multiple organ failure during severe acute pancreatitis.

Invited National Speakers.


Prof Minoti Apte

Professor of Medicine, SWS Clinical School, UNSW
Director, Pancreatic Research Group, SWS Clinical School,
UNSW and Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research
Editor-in-Chief, Pancreatology

Talk title: Alcohol, smoking and the pancreas

Minoti Apte is internationally recognised as a leading researcher in pancreatology and is well known for her pioneering work on the pathogenesis of pancreatic fibrosis, a characteristic feature of chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Minoti is a Founding member and Past President of the Australasian Pancreatic Club, a Founding member of the Asian Oceanic Pancreatic Association and is Editor-in-Chief of Pancreatology. She currently serves on the Research Committee of the Gastroenterological Society of Australia as well as the Research Committee of the Cancer Council of NSW. Minoti’s achievements have been recognised by several major awards, including the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2014, the New South Wales Woman of the Year award in 2015, the Professor Rob Sutherland Make a Difference Award for Outstanding Cancer Research from the Cancer Institute of NSW in 2016 and the Lady Mary Fairfax Award Distinguished Researcher Award by the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research in 2017.


A/Prof Phoebe Phillips

Laboratory Head, Pancreatic Cancer Translational Research
Deputy Director, Adult Cancer Program
Lowy Cancer Research Centre,
University of NSW, Australia

Talk title: Novel strategies to metabolically rewire pancreatic tumours

A/Prof Phoebe Phillips is internationally recognised for her ground-breaking work into pancreatic cancer (PC) and has >18 years’ experience in trying to tackle this disease. The quality of her research has been recognised by several highly competitive awards including: NHMRC CDF Fellowship (2012); Cure Cancer Australia Fellowships (2009, 2012, 2013); Cancer Institute NSW Fellowship (2009); Gastroenterological Society of Australia Fellowship (2007). She has developed several promising methods of slowing and reversing the progression of PC in preclinical studies. Following completion of her PhD in 2005, she was recruited on a fellowship to the University of Massachusetts (USA), where she identified a novel potent anti-PC drug (triptolide), which is showing encouraging results in a current Phase-2 clinical trial for patients with PC. In 2007, she returned to Australia and identified a major role for ‘helper cells’ (Pancreatic stellate cells – stromal cells) in PC progression. Her research program (currently funded by NHMRC, Cancer Australia, Cancer Council, Tour de Cure) is designed to acquire novel insights into tumour-stromal interactions in PC, with a goal of developing therapeutic strategies to target two major cell types that contribute to chemoresistance in PC i.e. cancer cells and stromal helper cells. A/Prof Phillips has had major roles in health policy and advocacy in Australia including: Past-President for the Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR; 2015), ASMR Executive Board of Directors (2012-17), Member of NHMRC Expert Advisory Group for restructure of NHMRC grant program (2016-17).


Dr Thomas Cox

Laboratory Head, Matrix and Metastasis Group
The Kinghorn Cancer Centre
Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Talk title: The extracellular matrix in pancreatic cancer progression and metastasis

Thomas currently leads the Matrix and Metastasis Group at the Garvan Institute of Medical Researching Sydney. His group focuses on how the extracellular matrix (ECM) regulates resident cell behaviour and specifically how it contributes to cancer progression, metastasis and response to therapeutics. Recent work has focussed on developing new techniques to image the ECM (Nature Medicine 2017) as well as the systemic role of ECM remodelling in pre-metastatic niche formation (Nature 2015). The aim of Thomas’ group is to establish targeting of ECM dynamics as a viable therapeutic approach in the treatment of solid cancers


Prof Marco Falasca

Head Metabolic Signalling Group
School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences | Faculty of Health Sciences
Curtin University

Talk title: Exosomes in pancreatic cancer diagnosis and therapy

Marco Falasca had his formal training in Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Chemistry with research experience in cell biology (signal transduction) and cancer pharmacology (enzymology).  He received the Pharmaceutical Chemistry degree (summa cum laude) from the University of Camerino, Italy and the Ph.D.eq degree from the Istituto Mario Negri Sud, in 1985 and 1994, respectively. From 1995 to 1997, M. Falasca was a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Department of Pharmacology at New York University. From 1998 to 2000 he was group leader at Consorzio Mario Negri Sud, Italy. From 2001 to 2007 M. Falasca was appointed as a Principal Research Fellow at University College London, Department of Medicine. From 2007 to 2014 he was appointed as a Professor at the Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London. In 2014, he was recruited by Curtin University, Perth, Australia, to establish a Metabolic Signalling group and held a Chair in Metabolism. The focus of his research in the past 30 years involved the investigation of signalling pathways regulating intracellular physiological and pathological processes. His work is mostly focused on intracellular signals regulated by specific lipids that act as “second messengers” inside a cell to control a plethora of cellular functions, including cell growth, proliferation and metabolism. Attention is specifically focused on lipids known as “phosphoinositides” that can themselves act as or be converted into messengers, ultimately regulating several cellular functions.


Professor Brendan J. Jenkins

NHMRC Senior Medical Research Fellow
Head, Cancer and Immune Signalling Laboratory
Hudson Institute of Medical Research,
Melbourne, Australia

Talk title: Role of innate immune regulators in pancreatic ductal

Professor Jenkins is Deputy Director of the Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Australia. His research interest is to define the roles that innate immune regulators, namely pattern recognition receptors and IL-6 family cytokines, play in the pathogenesis of numerous inflammation-associated cancers, including pancreatic cancer. His research programs incorporate long standing collaborations with basic scientific researchers and clinicians both nationwide and overseas, with a view to translate his preclinical findings into the clinic.


Dr Hong He

Senior Research Fellow
Department of Surgery
University of Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia

Talk title: p21-activated kinase 1 in the tumour microenvironment of pancreatic cancer

Dr. Hong He, MD., PhD, is a senior research fellow of the Department of Surgery, University of Melbourne. She has a solid background in biomedical sciences, with specific expertise in cancer biology, molecular mechanisms and targeted therapy. She is among the pioneers in identifying, developing and testing kinase inhibitors in cancer treatment. She has broad collaboration with surgeons, oncologists, chemists and scientists, and had industry collaboration in testing the novel kinase inhibitors. She has been working hard to develop novel inhibitors for targeted and combination therapies for cancer treatment. In her role as the treasurer of the Australia Chinese Association for Biomedical Sciences (ACABS), she has made significant contributions to the collaboration between Australian and Chinese scientists.


Dr Lorraine Chantrill

Senior Staff Specialist Medical Oncologist
Honorary Research Fellow
St Vincent’s Hospital, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Sydney, Australia

Talk title: Current and planned clinical trials in pancreas cancer - is the clinic keeping pace with the science?

Lorraine is the Clinical Lead for Oncology Clinical Trials at St Vincent’s Hospital, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and is the Principal Investigator on several clinical trials in gastrointestinal cancers. She is a Director of the Australasian Gastrointestinal Trials Group (AGITG) and Chairs the Upper GI working party of the AGITG. She is a member of the Data Safety Monitoring Committee of the Australasian Lymphoma and Leukaemia Group. She is an executive member of the Australian Pancreas Cancer Genome Initiative (APGI). She completed a PhD by research in the Pancreas Cancer Group at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and has a special interest in the molecular biology of pancreas cancer.