News « Charlie Teo Foundation

9 April 2024

Charlie Teo Foundation held our research showcase in collaboration with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in March 2024 to highlight the outcomes of our brain cancer research partnership over the last five years.

Charlie Teo Foundation Chair, Garry Browne AM, warmly welcomed our guests. We were proud to celebrate this work at our recent research showcase generously hosted by Garvan. We warmly welcomed scientists and supporters from Garvan and other research teams including University of New South Wales, University of Sydney, University of Technology, Sydney and University of Newcastle. We were honoured to have join us neurosurgeons, neurooncologists and neuropathologists from the St Vincent’s/Garvan network.

Charlie Teo Foundation supported scientists from left to right: Dr Sylvia Chung, UTS; Dr Kristina Cook, University of Sydney; and Professor Jeff Holst, University of NSW.

Charlie Teo Foundation CEO Alana Phadke opened the showcase by thanking all the scientists and clinicians working together to improve outcomes for people with brain cancer.

“I want to sincerely thank and acknowledge Garvan for the wonderful partnership that we have built over the last 5 years.

It is a collaboration based on professionalism, trust, confidence and fantastic working relationships.

This research collaboration genuinely showcases what can be achieved when two teams share their resources and expertise to achieve a common goal – better treatments for brain cancer.”

Alana Phadke, CEO of the Charlie Teo Foundation

Professor Benjamin Kile, Executive Director of the Garvan Institute and Alana Phadke, CEO of the Charlie Teo Foundation

Professor Joseph Powell, Director of Translational Genomics at the Garvan Institute, was travelling overseas, virtually shared an important update and his vision for the future.

“The collaboration with the Charlie Teo Foundation has been one of the most enjoyable, productive and rewarding experiences of a research partnership that I have had in my academic career.”

Professor Joseph Powell, Director of Translational Genomics, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Joseph elaborated, “We started by generating an atlas of single-cell genomic data for brain tumours. This is the largest resource of its type in the world and is used by many researchers locally and globally.

That enabled us to move forward and develop computational and wet lab techniques to identify glioma stem cells (the origin cells in diffuse gliomas) and identify the genomic underpinnings of those cells that we think we can start targeting with new therapies.

Moving towards the future, we are looking at pre-clinical work—both for evaluating the role and impact of current therapies and for what we can do to start thinking about developing new therapies for diffuse gliomas.

This is something we are proud to continue in our lab at Garvan in collaboration with the Charlie Teo Foundation.” – Professor Powell

Dr Ashraf Zaman with Dr Charlie Teo in the lab

Dr Ashraf Zaman, a Garvan Research and Biobank Scientist, took guests on a deep dive into the team’s work and its future direction.

We were honoured to round off the evening with sincere thanks to everyone involved from Dr Charlie Teo AM. 

A special acknowledgment to all our speakers on the night representing the Charlie Teo Foundation and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Garry Browne AM, Chair of the Board of the Charlie Teo Foundation
Alana Phadke, Chief Executive Officer of the Charlie Teo Foundation
Professor Benjamin Kile, Executive Director of the Garvan Institute
Professor Joseph Powell, Director of Translational Genomics, Garvan Institute
Dr Ashraf Zaman, Research and Biobank Scientist at the Garvan Institute
Dr Charlie Teo AM, Founder of the Charlie Teo Foundation

Together we are driving scientific progress in the field of brain cancer, and strategising for future success. Thank you for your incredible support of this collaboration!

14 December 2023 – Read Now 

4 October 2023

Charlie Teo Foundation (CTF) has been made aware of an online advertising scam that is illegally using our founder’s image and/or endorsement to promote blood pressure medication. 

These fake ads appear on social media and website advertising. Neither Dr Charlie Teo nor CTF are responsible for these fake online public advertisements, and we do not endorse or support them.

Many supporters have sent us copies of these online ads asking if they’re scams. If you receive or see one of these fake ads, we urge you to report it. Please do not click on any ad links or provide your personal details.  

The Australian Government provides information on how to report scams: 

19 September 2023

Today we pay special tribute to our little friend Alegra. Today would have been Alegra’s 12th birthday. A beautiful angel, taken too soon, age six.

The Alegra’s Army Grant was established by the Little Legs Foundation in partnership with the Charlie Teo Foundation to ensure that no family and child has to suffer the ultimate price like Alegra.

We are proud today to honour Alegra by sharing recent DIPG research progress across the world.

Our little angel, Alegra

Lethal, inoperable, and seemingly incurable – these are the sombre labels that have long characterised Diffuse Midline Gliomas (DMG), previously known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG).

DMG is a fatal type of cancer that predominantly affects children’s brain and spinal cords.

Unlike many other solid paediatric cancers, DMG doesn’t grow as large masses; instead, these cancer cells blend into healthy tissue, making them highly evasive and difficult to treat. The current treatment approach is palliative radiotherapy, bringing only short-lived relief, with patients often surviving just 9 to 11 months after diagnosis.

Here is where HOPE enters the picture…. 

Published findings from a team at Michigan University and international collaborators including Charlie Teo Foundation-funded superstar Professor Matt Dun, have shown for the first time in clinical trials that a new compound called ONC201 nearly doubled survival for patients with DMG compared to previous patients. This breakthrough cracks the seemingly unbreakable armour of DMG.

This breakthrough brightens the path ahead, reminding us that even in the face of the toughest challenges, science's light can guide us toward solutions we once thought were beyond our grasp.

Prof Dun’s team didn’t stop there… They also figured out how DMG becomes resistant to ONC201 and found a way to tackle it. By combining ONC201 with another drug, ‘paxalisib,’ and standard radiotherapy, they’re aiming to boost the treatment’s effectiveness. These preclinical findings generated by Prof Matt Dun and his University of Newcastle research team supported the rationale for a DMG clinical trial known as PNOC022 that was recently brought to Australia, to test this combination therapy in DMG patients. Read more

Prof Dun with DIPG patient, Maddie

Through the Charlie Teo Foundation’s More Data grant scheme, Prof Matt Dun and his team have also uncovered that ONC201 can potentially empower the immune system to better recognise and attack DMG cells. Empowering and engineering the immune system to better recognise and attack cancer cells has been shown to be effective and even curative in some forms of leukemia. However, this strategy remains quite difficult to implement in solid tumours like DIPG for a plethora of reasons which have been recently summarized by Dun Lab superstar, PhD candidate Bryce Thomas (supported by an Alegra’s Army PhD Scholarship), in the prestigious journal Trends in Cancer.

Bryce Thomas. Photo credit: X (formerly Twitter) @Bryce_Thomas23

One of the main reasons DMG is so hard to tackle is because the tumour creates an environment around itself that shields it from the body’s immune system. This means that the immune system, which normally fights off infections and diseases, can’t effectively recognise and attack the cancer cells. This protective shield is made up of certain cells that are meant to help us, but in this case, they end up aiding the cancer’s growth.

Preliminary findings from Prof Matt Dun’s Alegra’s Army Grant funded in partnership with the Little Legs Foundation has shown that ONC201 can potentially weaken this protective shield, making the DMG cells more visible to the immune system and promoting an influx of battle-ready immune cells into the tumour. Further validation of this work is currently underway as the lab perfect the best DMG model to study the phenomenon in the lab. The Dun Lab suggests that a possible alternative treatment can include the use of ONC201 in combination with another type of immunotherapy called adoptive cell therapy or a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy. This innovative approach involves modifying a patient’s own immune cells, teaching them to specifically target the DMG cancer cells.

Alegra's Family and founders of the Little Legs Foundation together with Prof Dun
Eve and Maddie, two little girls in Australia courageously fighting brain cancer. Both are defying statistics and we send our love each day. Photo credit: Instagram @LittleLegsFoundation

Preliminary evidence from a Stanford study has shown that this approach demonstrated enhanced tumour reduction and improved neurological conditions in three of four patients.

However, an ongoing challenge associated with this strategy involves teaching the cells what DMG cells look like because not every DMG cell looks alike. From this project, Prof Matt Dun’s team have identified a potential marker that can better identify and differentiate DMG cells from healthy cells. The group are currently working on a strategy to exploit the finding in the clinical setting.

In the end, this isn’t just about science—it’s about HOPE. Prof Dun and his team are at the forefront, driving progress and uniting the masses. Their ONC201 breakthrough brightens the path ahead, reminding us that even in the face of the toughest challenges, science’s light can guide us toward solutions we once thought were beyond our grasp.

This Childhood Cancer Awareness Month we’re shining a light on the need for better treatments.

Matt with his family. Matt lost his beautiful daughter Josephine to DIPG. Photo Credit X (formerly Twitter) @MattDun17

Brain cancer research is significantly underfunded compared to other cancers, meaning survival rates have barely improved in about 40 years. Research funders like the Charlie Teo Foundation are crucial to changing the future for brain cancer patients and families.

To date Charlie Teo Foundation has committed more than $10 million to brain cancer research in Australia and globally. This includes $2.7 million awarded into DIPG/DMG specific research. Compare this to the Australian Government that has awarded $970,000 to DIPG/DMG specific research over that same period.

United together we can shine a bright light on the need for more funding for brain cancer research and better treatments in Australia.

Extraordinary scientists need our support to do what they do best in their quest for a cure!

Prof Matt Dun and his research team taking a well earned break from their hard work and dedication to funding better treatments for DIPG/DMG. Photo credit: X (formerly Twitter) @MattDun17

1 September 2023 – Today marks the first day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The sad truth is that brain cancer is the deadliest of all childhood cancers.

Charlie Teo Foundation is on a global mission to change this by funding the BRIGHTEST brain cancer researchers worldwide!

One of these remarkable researchers who we have funded locally to develop world-first tools in brain cancer is one of ‘Australia’s Superstars of STEM’ Dr Jessica Buck. Dr Buck is also a new mother, proud Kamilaroi woman and the first Aboriginal woman to graduate with a PhD from Oxford University.

Dr Buck shares more about her research into childhood brain cancer one year into her Better Tools Grant from the Charlie Teo Foundation…

Survival rates for kids with brain cancer have barely changed in 30 years. The treatments we use haven’t changed either…

To date very few new brain cancer drugs have been identified for children. We believe this is partially because children are treated as ‘small adults’ in cancer drug discovery. Virtually all pre-clinical studies are conducted in adult models rather than paediatric models.

This completely ignores massive differences that exist between adults and children in the developmental stage of their brain, immune system, organs, and tumour microenvironment.

Under my Charlie Teo Foundation Grant, I have been working to develop world-first techniques to more accurately evaluate new childhood brain cancer therapies. Our pipeline aims to enable the testing of new immunotherapies in paediatric models for the first time.

We desperately need more research into this devastating disease to develop better treatments. This is why charities like the Charlie Teo Foundation are SO important. Better research can provide HOPE to kids with brain cancer and their families.

My ultimate goal is for all kids with brain cancer to grow up to live long, happy and healthy lives.” – Dr Jessica Buck, Perth 

Help support extraordinary scientists in their quest to cure brain cancer by joining one of our upcoming events!