Brain Cancer research « Charlie Teo Foundation

Hear from Prof Charlie Teo about our game-changing research

Brain cancer kills more children in Australia than any other disease

Funding disruptive research

Brain cancer is an incredibly complex problem. It is extremely difficult to pick winners. At the Charlie Teo Foundation we are strategically taking more calculated risks, acknowledging that the best breakthroughs in science don’t come from being safe. Our research strategy guides how we fund and what we fund and we explore key themes over time. These themes are developed in conjunction with our Scientific Advisory Committee and approved by the Board. This strategic framework allows for significant flexibility so the Charlie Teo Foundation can experiment and prioritise whilst still managing risk. We believe this approach will pay dividends in the long run and result in real advancements in treatments for brain cancer. Charlie Teo Foundation is now pursuing three key themes of More Data, Better Tools and Teo Fellowships: Empowering “Out of the Box” Thinkers.

More Data

We Believe in Openness

Achieving a solution to brain cancer will require people and organisations working together to break down silos and increase collaboration in research. We are encouraging open access publication of brain cancer research findings and making datasets from research freely available worldwide. Under this theme, Charlie Teo Foundation will act as a catalyst by making anonymised datasets from Prof Charlie Teo’s tumour collection available online in a freely-accessible and interoperable format. You never know where the cure may come from. We want researchers to be able to learn and build on the work of others.

Better tools

Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world — Archimedes

There is a lack of tools and techniques to assist researchers to properly understand brain cancer. Rather than continue to fund research 'downstream', it makes sense to direct more resources 'upstream' by funding the discovery, development and application of tools and techniques that empower researchers and clinicians in their work. The further upstream, the greater the potential impact from advancement. Charlie Teo Foundation is exploring where researchers and clinicians face difficulties in the conduct of their work and then identifying and funding ways to address those difficulties, whether by developing new concepts or applying existing concepts in new ways. Like Archimedes’ famous quote, we are funding the tools to help our researchers find solutions and change the world.
Analytical tools
New software tools for analysing large and complex datasets associated with cancer to make it possible for researchers to harness big data in their work.
Methodological tools
New techniques to improve the quality and rigour of brain cancer research in order to make the outputs of biologic assays closer to studying the real disease.
Clinical tools
New ideas to solve problems in surgery and neuro-oncology, incubating them from concept through to prototyping, until they are able to transition to venture capital.

Our aim is to stack the odds in favour of finding a cure.

Teo Fellowships


Empowering “Out of the Box” Thinkers

When a cure is eventually discovered, it will likely be as a result of “out of the box” thinking. However, researchers that approach brain cancer in ways that challenge current orthodoxy we believe are less likely to receive support in the form of public grant funding. This theme seeks to support those alternative or atypical researchers who may otherwise be overlooked, enabling them to pursue their ideas for a period of time. A Teo Fellowship will allow a researcher to pursue more ambitious and unusual research ideas that may otherwise go unfunded. Teo Fellowships is a prestigious program, with the number of fellowships limited in number per year. Recipients of a Teo Fellowship will be supported with multi-year funding support.

Our research projects

Charlie Teo Foundation is exploring the following key brain cancer research projects:
Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank

Theme: More Data

Charlie Teo Foundation is currently in the process of obtaining ethical approval to create one of the largest brain tumour banks in the southern hemisphere. Once the brain tumour bank is in operation, Prof Charlie Teo’s patients, who have been diagnosed with a brain tumour, will be asked to donate a sample of their tissue and blood to be stored in the Brain Tumour Bank for future medical research. By doing this, Charlie’s patients will be helping us make a difference for current and future patients and are supporting the Charlie Teo Foundation to harness this resource for the benefit of researchers and patients worldwide.
Single-cell RNA sequencing

Theme: More Data

Charlie Teo Foundation is collaborating with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research on a world-first large-scale study right here in Sydney into Glioblastoma (GBM) brain tumours. GBM is a type of very aggressive brain tumour. The median survival time with glioblastoma is 15 to 16 months in people who get surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment. Median means half of all patients with this tumour survive to this length of time. Everyone with glioblastoma is different. Some people don’t survive as long. Other people may survive up to five years or more, although it’s rare. The research team is being led by two brilliant minds – Dr Michael Sughrue, an expert in adult brain tumours known for cutting edge advances in brain surgery; and the Head of the Garvan-Veizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics, Associate Professor Joseph Powell. We really don’t know enough about GBMs. We have been trying to treat them with one drug. Recently work has shown us that a GBM can have as many as 100 or more types of cancer cells, which are genetically different and may interact with each other in complex ways. We simply don’t yet have enough data to even start tackling the problem. We have brought a team of experts together to use an advanced single-cell RNA sequencing technique that has never been done before on this scale. Single cell RNA sequencing technique can be used to understand the behaviour of individual cancer cell in a heterogeneous tumour. Better understanding of GBM will lead us on the path to discover better treatments for this terrible disease.
The ultimate weapon for tackling brain cancer

Theme: Better Tools

Dr Michael Sughrue has come to Australia to harness the power of big data to map the network of gene interactions in a GBM brain tumour. A unique type of software is being developed which instead of focusing on individual genes, looks at the entire network of over 300,000 gene interactions. Deep learning is a powerful tool used in a variety of applications which has had a substantial impact in the way computers aid our ability to analyse data. The aim is to create a tool to allow us to harness these engines to provide insights into which cancer cell interactions need to be stopped to make an aggressive cancer behave more like the few GBM’s which are well behaved. This has the potential to drastically change the way many cancers, including GBM, are studied.
Investigating the kynurenine pathways as a potential biomarker for predicting glioma patient prognosis and tumour grade

Theme: More Data

$140,881 has been distributed to Dr Seray Adams at Macquarie University for her work in conducting final experiments to see outcomes from 5 years of brain cancer research. Activity of a metabolic pathway in cancer prevents the immune system from maintaining control over cancer growth. One metabolic pathway known to help the cancer avoid destruction from the immune system is tryptophan metabolism. This research aims to understand how this pathway disrupts the immune system and contributes to brain cancer aggressiveness. Understanding the role the pathway plays in promoting brain cancer growth could identify new treatment strategies for treating brain cancers. Utilising the pathway as a clinically useful tool may allow more accurate brain cancer diagnosis and better predict patient survival and tumour aggressiveness.
Personalising the treatment plan for brain cancer patients

Theme: More Data

$151,054 has been distributed to the Neuro-Oncology Lab at the Lowy Cancer Research Institute at UNSW. Every brain cancer patient is different. Brain cancer affects children, adolescents, young and elderly patients. It doesn't make sense that the treatment plan is he same for every patient. This project aims to personalise the treatment regimes for every patient with brain cancer based on their own genomics and to improve survival of patients. Creating models from tumour tissue collected will allow for the screening of drugs that may be suitable for the individual patient. Whole genome sequencing will also be performed to identify genes that are driving the tumour so that the effective treatments can be identified.