Charlie’s Letters « Charlie Teo Foundation

Charlie’s Letters 1

How hope keeps us going

Today, in brain tumour awareness month, we take a moment to celebrate over 2 years of the Charlie Teo Foundation (CTF) with the release of Charlie’s letter.

On the 1st of March 2018, Charlie officially launched CTF to shake-up the way brain cancer research is funded. Charlie has never been satisfied with the status-quo. That’s why CTF is all about radical thinking to find a solution to brain cancer.

In this letter, Charlie reflects on the challenging times we face and how through this, CTF stands strong in our fight against brain cancer.

5th May 2020

Hello friends,

This week I operated on a courageous 29-year-old. She had a rapid recurrence of her brain cancer despite best standard treatment. Her devoted and loving husband held her hand throughout the pre-operative visit and gave nothing but unconditional support. Her eyes betrayed any outward pretence of bravado… she knew this would be her last chance of life. He knew it too.

All my patients are kind enough to show appropriate concern for the current pandemic. I am acutely aware, however, that deep within their souls I’m sure they are wondering why society appears to have forgotten their disease that carries an almost 100% mortality and for which governments contribute very little funding. I have pledged to stay the course, beat their drum, be their voice and relentlessly pursue funding opportunities by raising awareness and lobbying the government.

Death and dying are not unfamiliar to me. Although we are facing a global challenge never before witnessed, it is a reminder of how fragile life is, how important our health is, how home and family are paramount and how hope keeps us going.

My promise to you is that CTF will not lose sight of our purpose. We will continue to be transparent about our financials and disruptive in our approach to research.

“Although we are facing a global challenge never before witnessed, it is a reminder of how fragile life is, how important our health is, how home and family are paramount and how hope keeps us going.”

Of the $11 million raised for CTF over the last 2 years so far, we have committed $4 million to brain cancer research and our total costs are 19% of total income.

But we are not spending for the sake of spending. We measure our success on impact. CTF has a clear strategy that I really feel is going to move the needle. I want to finally see an improvement to brain cancer survival rates, something that hasn’t happened in over 35 years.

Let me introduce you to some of our newest impassioned, left-field and unconventional researchers and their grants that we are awarding in 2020.

Dr Joshua Chou – Out of this World!

We’re on a space mission

A biomedical engineer at the University of Technology Sydney, Joshua is the first in Australia to develop a microgravity device. Inspired by a chance encounter with Stephen Hawking who told him to “remember that nothing defies gravity”, Joshua has shown that altering gravitational forces causes cancer cells to stop growing. We’re funding him to study this in brain cancer. He’s also sending brain cancer cells into space to the International Space Station for 7 days to further study this phenomenon at ZERO GRAVITY.

A/Prof Hong Chen – Nasal Drug Delivery

We’re breaking down barriers

A biomedical engineer at Washington University in St Louis in the U.S, Hong is tackling a serious problem with treating brain cancer. The blood brain barrier protects the brain. It also makes it extremely difficult to get drugs through it to treat the cancer. She is using a novel approach to bypass the barrier and carry the drugs to release at the cancer site by combining three different techniques – nasal delivery – nanoparticles – focused ultrasound.

Dr Kristina Cook – The Body Clock

We’re giving the gift of time

I have always been fascinated with the circadian rhythm and how it impacts how we treat brain cancer. A cancer biologist, cancer survivor herself and up and comer brain cancer researcher at the University of Sydney, Kristina has worked with the 2019 Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine and is applying her learnings to brain cancer. She is our very first recipient of a Teo Research Fellowship, exploring whether the body clock can be used to synchronise brain cancer cells to a time of day where they are most vulnerable to attack.

Dr Roel Verhaak – Saving kids & man’s best friend

We’re looking for the key driver

What drives brain cancer is currently unknown. Roel’s computational brain cancer biology team at the Jackson Laboratory in the U.S has helped to treat dogs diagnosed with brain cancer. What they discovered in trying to help sick dogs is that they develop brain cancer very similarly to brain cancer in children… So, we’re funding the lab to study those similarities to uncover the potential driver of childhood brain cancer.

And this is just a glimpse into our research. If you find it fascinating like me, you can find out more about our Research Projects.

All of these incredible researchers are thinking outside the box, and that’s exactly what I want to encourage. Let’s break-down silos! Let’s work together! Let’s share data, knowledge and experience!

“My plea with all our supporters is to approach brain cancer with determination, community spirit and a humanistic attitude.”

COVID-19 has underscored the importance of dealing with a serious illness as a community and with a humanistic approach, not individualistic. My plea with all our supporters is to take those very principles and continue to approach brain cancer with the same determination, community spirit and humanistic attitude.

I want to thank all those incredibly kind and generous people and organisations who have continued to donate to CTF despite hard financial times and to wish everyone all the very best for the year to come. You are offering hope to people with brain cancer, and that is a beautiful gift. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I would like to personally invite you to join me on Facebook Live this May to hear me talk more about how hope keeps us going and to have the opportunity to chat with me. Further details will be announced shortly.



Prof Charlie Teo AM

Charlie’s Letters 2


The festive season is a time to celebrate with friends and family. It can also be a hard time, where we cherish the memory of loved ones lost.
This December, the Charlie Teo Foundation (CTF) will be sharing the stories of our children and young who have been taken from us too soon, and how we are working to change the future for patients with brain cancer and their families.
In his latest letter, Charlie takes a moment to remember those who have lost their lives to brain cancer and to show you how CTF is fighting for the future of our youth.

8 December 2020

Hello friends,

As 2020 draws to an end, I find myself looking ahead… I see a brighter future on the horizon for the world, and for everyone who has been touched by brain cancer. That future may not be immediate, but I hold hope in humanity that we will get there.
What is our future? It is our children and our youth. They are the ones that hold the destiny of this earth and our species in their hands.
Nothing destroys our destiny more than the death of a child. It is a combination of the incongruity of a parent out-living their offspring, the innocence of a child, the injustice of a disease where the victim is blameless and the unfairness of taking someone before they get to experience all that life has to offer. As a neurosurgeon I sadly see this every single week. I never forget the loss of a child.

What is our future? It is our children and our youth. We fight for their future.

Harry was a patient of mine many years ago, yet I recall his story almost on a daily basis. He died of a brainstem glioma at the tender age of 7. In his 7 short years he demonstrated amazing personality traits. Extreme compassion. Nurturing and kindness to his younger brother. Phenomenal courage and maturity in his approach to his terminal disease. A positive attitude that was contagious to his family and carers.

I often ponder on how the world would have been a better place if Harry could have lived a full life. He may have been a motivational speaker, a respected leader or a diplomat. He may have found the cure for cancer or invented a sustainable energy source. How sad that we will never know the potential contribution that Harry may have made to our humanity.

Our children are our future. They are our hope. How then does a disease that kills more children in Australia than any other disease, receive very little funding from our Government? Brain cancer is ranked NUMBER 1 for its socio-economic impact on society because it not only kills children, but it is also the most common cause of cancer-related death in young adults. It knocks our young out of the workforce and society in the prime of their life.

When funds and resources are allocated to the right people and right projects miracles can happen.

My soul is more ablaze than ever with fierce determination to change this. I am confident that CTF is on the right track to achieve change. We may be a grassroots charity, and may not receive Government funding, but when funds and resources are allocated to the right people and right projects, miracles can happen.

Despite the challenges of this year, COVID-19 has not halted our efforts. I am
pleased to announce that over the last 6 months since I last wrote to you, we have awarded 3 new brain cancer research grants totalling over AU$800k to the best brains from Australia and around the globe. Let me introduce you to our newest researchers:

A/Prof Jeff Holst – Starving brain cancer
We’re cutting its energy supply

A biochemist at the University of New South Wales Sydney, Jeff has been awarded $136,500 to look at a way to stop the growth of brain cancer by cutting its energy supply. His team will look into starving the cancer cells of the essential nutrients needed for their growth and survival. This research will build upon the work of our Cancer Genomics – The Next Level project as the data collected on the energy sources needed by brain cancer cells will be integrated and matched with the genetic data, creating the ultimate roadmap of what and how cancer cells grow and survive.

A/Prof Peter Fecci – Unshackling the immune system

After decades of failures, scientists finally found effective ways of turning the immune system against cancers, with spectacular results – except for brain cancer. Peter a neurosurgeon from Duke University in the U.S is an expert on T-cells – they are part of our immune system that seek and destroy potential threats and keep you healthy.
Unfortunately, in brain cancer the T-cells are typically muzzled by checkpoint
proteins. Peter was one of the first to identify this T-cell dysfunction in brain cancer and working alongside 2012 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, Prof Robert J.
Lefkowitz, we’ve awarded the team $477,343 to find out how we can take the break of the T-cells so they can do their job.

Dr Alan Wang – A new drug
We’re bringing new treatments to the table

We’ve encouraged collaboration of an Australian pharmaceutical research company, Pharmaxis, and a molecular biologist at one of the most prestigious comprehensive cancer centers, MD Anderson, to test a new experimental drug. We’ve funded the team $187,000 to conduct pivotal experiments showing how the drug works to facilitate the killing of brain cancer cells to progress the drug moving into clinical trials of brain cancer patients.

Dr Scott Floyd – Has the cancer come back?
We’re improving diagnostic accuracy

A radiation oncologist at Duke University in the U.S, Scott is looking into the long- standing question, has the brain cancer come back or is that necrosis, a side effect of radiation treatment? He and his team are pioneering the use of laser interstitial thermal therapy to study new imaging tools aimed at differentiating recurrent tumour from necrosis. What this means is that subsequent unnecessary surgeries could be avoided when its not the tumour recurring but a side effect of the radiation. We’re funding the team $180,005 to get this technique into clinic.
We also have some exciting new projects in the pipeline that I will announce in 2021.
Further, my pledge to you remains strong that we will stay lean and transparent. Our costs (which include both admin costs & fundraising costs) remain at under 20% of total income since we launched in 2018. To our loyal volunteers and companies that support us pro bono – you know who you are – I thank you wholeheartedly.

My soul is more ablaze than ever with fierce determination to change the future
for people diagnosed with brain cancer.

This month we will be sharing the stories of families who have felt the heart-breaking loss of a loved one to brain cancer. These stories demonstrate the tremendous courage that people show when facing diagnosis with a terminal disease.
Whether you have been personally affected by brain cancer or simply are shocked by the statistics, I invite you to join me. Read these stories. Share them with your friends. Stand up and act. Spread the word about brain cancer. Give by clicking the donate button below. Join me and do whatever you can to help us offer a future to people with brain cancer.
Thank you to all our supporters. Your continued generosity is a blessing and
something we never take for granted. You believe in our approach to funding brain cancer research and I am humbled to carry the torch with you into the new year and beyond.

Let’s keep working together to ensure that our children just like Harry get to
experience all that life has to offer.



Prof Charlie Teo AM

P.S. Read more about our game-changing research strategy and grants and Review our latest financials.