Marco is an internationally-recognised researcher of over 30 years, having earned his stripes in renowned institutions such as New York University, University College London, Queen Mary University of London. Now at CHIRI, Marco continues to add to a long list of significant contributions he’s made to the international research community, which include pioneering discoveries in metabolic diseases such as diabetes, and cancer.

Specialising in cell metabolism, Marco and his team of cancer researchers are keen to find out all there is to know about the mechanisms involved in the development and progression of pancreatic diseases, including one of the most lethal of all – pancreatic cancer. Breaking news in late 2018 saw the team celebrate the discovery of a potential new medicinal cannabis-based treatment it’s been working on with promising results in the lab.

In 2019, Marco backed this up with the discovery of a potential new treatment for an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which may have the potential to increase the survival of patients, including those resistant to currently available cancer chemotherapeutic drugs. An international collaborative research team led by Marco found a specialised protein in human PDAC cancer cells that is critical to tumour progression; and that treatment with a modified version of an anti-inflammatory drug, called sulindac, could block cancer progression in preclinical models with PDAC. Further research is needed to determine whether a possible drug combination including sulindac may also provide promising results in clinical trials. This research project is made possible by an Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation Grant www.avnersfoundation.org.au. We have our fingers crossed the team will successfully deliver a new treatment that indeed proves effective in halting the progression of this deadly disease.

Also on Marco’s radar is using his significant expertise in lipid signalling and pharmacology to reveal more about the role of gastrointestinal hormones in insulin response and glucose release so they can be managed in diabetes patients.

Research interests – metabolism signalling, including signal transduction in cancer cells; role of ABC transporters in cancer progression and cell signalling; and the identification of novel therapeutic strategies for pancreatic cancer and metabolic diseases.