News « Charlie Teo Foundation

April 2021

By Linda Music, Volunteer Health Writer for the Charlie Teo Foundation

It’s not exactly what you’d expect a 10-year-old to be doing on her school holidays: watching experiments involving blood, learning about chemistry and peering over a microscope examining cells. But that’s exactly what cancer researcher, Seray Adams, often found herself doing at that age.

“My mum was a chemist and she often took me to work where she’d teach me about chemistry. I’d watch her do experiments with blood and I’d help with distillation and preparing chemicals,” says Seray.

“My aunty worked in biogenetics and I was fortunate that she also took me to work where I became fascinated with looking at cells through a microscope.”

Experiencing the world of science propelled Seray into a science career, and as a Charlie Teo Foundation More Data Grant recipient, she investigated how disruptions to the immune system potentially contribute to brain cancer growth.

“The activity of certain metabolic pathways in cancer prevents the immune system from maintaining control of the cancer growth. One such metabolic pathway which helps the cancer from being detected by the immune system is tryptophan metabolism, also known as the kynurenine pathway. Our research project aimed to understand how this pathway disrupts the immune system and how it potentially contributes to brain cancer growth.”

Seray explains that the role of this pathway in potentially promoting brain cancer growth could help to identify new treatment strategies for treating brain cancer.

The first part of the project involved targeting enzymes which are downstream in the pathway. Their results found that targeting one such enzyme, Kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO), significantly reduced the growth of brain cancer cells.

“We used brain cancer cells derived from brain cancer patients and targeted the KMO enzyme together with the delivery of the chemotherapy drug temozolomide (TMZ). We found this combination more powerful in reducing brain cancer growth than just targeting KMO by itself.”

Pictured: Dr Seray Adams working in the laboratory

The second part of the research has been to analyse brain cancer tissue samples to determine if the specific proteins in the kynurenine pathway can be used as biomarkers to help provide a more accurate diagnosis of brain cancer types.

“No one has investigated lower segments of the pathway before. We wanted to determine the clinical relevance of the proteins in the lower segment of the kynurenine pathway in glioblastoma. So far, we’ve characterised seven clinical enzymes from the lower segment,” Seray explains.

“So, the main goal of this part of the project is to identify tryptophan metabolism products as biomarkers that can be used as clinically useful tools to complement the more traditional diagnostic markers currently used. This could potentially improve prognostic and diagnostic accuracy. In addition, the research aims to predict the potential for tumour recurrence and its possible progression to a more aggressive tumour type.”

Seray’s research into brain cancer started seven years ago and would have ceased had she not received the More Data grant from the Charlie Teo Foundation.

“Without the support of the Charlie Teo Foundation we would not have been able to continue investigating our project as we had no other source of funding to keep it going. This funding was critical in helping us to achieve our research goals in our kynurenine pathway project. Our research is yielding important insights into understanding how this pathway disrupts the immune system and contributes to brain cancer aggressiveness. We have obtained some promising results that could identify a new immunotherapeutic treatment strategy for rare cancers.”

Seray is passionate about her work and is determined to continue to help brain cancer patients.

“Although there has been great progress in significantly improving patient survival of many other types of cancer, brain cancer survival rates are extremely low and have barely changed in the last 35 years representing one of the most challenging cancers to treat. This is what motivates me, the challenge and opportunity to use research to uncover cancer vulnerabilities and help make improvements in patient survival and potentially find a cure.”

“Any discovery I make in the laboratory, no matter how small, makes me feel I am one step closer to unravelling how brain cancer works. It’s the small but incremental progress we make as researchers that motivates me in the fight against brain cancer.”

Read more about this research project. 

April 2021

By Linda Music, Volunteer Health Writer for the Charlie Teo Foundation

It’s not exactly what you’d expect a 10-year-old to be doing on her school holidays: watching experiments involving blood, learning about chemistry and peering over a microscope examining cells. But that’s exactly what cancer researcher, Seray Adams, often found herself doing at that age.

“My mum was a chemist and she often took me to work where she’d teach me about chemistry. I’d watch her do experiments with blood and I’d help with distillation and preparing chemicals,” says Seray.

“My aunty worked in biogenetics and I was fortunate that she also took me to work where I became fascinated with looking at cells through a microscope.”

Experiencing the world of science propelled Seray into a science career, and as a Charlie Teo Foundation More Data Grant recipient, she investigated how disruptions to the immune system potentially contribute to brain cancer growth.

“The activity of certain metabolic pathways in cancer prevents the immune system from maintaining control of the cancer growth. One such metabolic pathway which helps the cancer from being detected by the immune system is tryptophan metabolism, also known as the kynurenine pathway. Our research project aimed to understand how this pathway disrupts the immune system and how it potentially contributes to brain cancer growth.”

Seray explains that the role of this pathway in potentially promoting brain cancer growth could help to identify new treatment strategies for treating brain cancer.

The first part of the project involved targeting enzymes which are downstream in the pathway. Their results found that targeting one such enzyme, Kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO), significantly reduced the growth of brain cancer cells.

“We used brain cancer cells derived from brain cancer patients and targeted the KMO enzyme together with the delivery of the chemotherapy drug temozolomide (TMZ). We found this combination more powerful in reducing brain cancer growth than just targeting KMO by itself.”

Pictured: Dr Seray Adams working in the laboratory

The second part of the research has been to analyse brain cancer tissue samples to determine if the specific proteins in the kynurenine pathway can be used as biomarkers to help provide a more accurate diagnosis of brain cancer types.

“No one has investigated lower segments of the pathway before. We wanted to determine the clinical relevance of the proteins in the lower segment of the kynurenine pathway in glioblastoma. So far, we’ve characterised seven clinical enzymes from the lower segment,” Seray explains.

“So, the main goal of this part of the project is to identify tryptophan metabolism products as biomarkers that can be used as clinically useful tools to complement the more traditional diagnostic markers currently used. This could potentially improve prognostic and diagnostic accuracy. In addition, the research aims to predict the potential for tumour recurrence and its possible progression to a more aggressive tumour type.”

Seray’s research into brain cancer started seven years ago and would have ceased had she not received the More Data grant from the Charlie Teo Foundation.

“Without the support of the Charlie Teo Foundation we would not have been able to continue investigating our project as we had no other source of funding to keep it going. This funding was critical in helping us to achieve our research goals in our kynurenine pathway project. Our research is yielding important insights into understanding how this pathway disrupts the immune system and contributes to brain cancer aggressiveness. We have obtained some promising results that could identify a new immunotherapeutic treatment strategy for rare cancers.”

Seray is passionate about her work and is determined to continue to help brain cancer patients.

“Although there has been great progress in significantly improving patient survival of many other types of cancer, brain cancer survival rates are extremely low and have barely changed in the last 35 years representing one of the most challenging cancers to treat. This is what motivates me, the challenge and opportunity to use research to uncover cancer vulnerabilities and help make improvements in patient survival and potentially find a cure.”

“Any discovery I make in the laboratory, no matter how small, makes me feel I am one step closer to unravelling how brain cancer works. It’s the small but incremental progress we make as researchers that motivates me in the fight against brain cancer.”

Read more about this research project. 

April 2021

By Linda Music, Volunteer Health Writer for the Charlie Teo Foundation

It’s not exactly what you’d expect a 10-year-old to be doing on her school holidays: watching experiments involving blood, learning about chemistry and peering over a microscope examining cells. But that’s exactly what cancer researcher, Seray Adams, often found herself doing at that age.

“My mum was a chemist and she often took me to work where she’d teach me about chemistry. I’d watch her do experiments with blood and I’d help with distillation and preparing chemicals,” says Seray.

“My aunty worked in biogenetics and I was fortunate that she also took me to work where I became fascinated with looking at cells through a microscope.”

Experiencing the world of science propelled Seray into a science career, and as a Charlie Teo Foundation More Data Grant recipient, she investigated how disruptions to the immune system potentially contribute to brain cancer growth.

“The activity of certain metabolic pathways in cancer prevents the immune system from maintaining control of the cancer growth. One such metabolic pathway which helps the cancer from being detected by the immune system is tryptophan metabolism, also known as the kynurenine pathway. Our research project aimed to understand how this pathway disrupts the immune system and how it potentially contributes to brain cancer growth.”

Seray explains that the role of this pathway in potentially promoting brain cancer growth could help to identify new treatment strategies for treating brain cancer.

The first part of the project involved targeting enzymes which are downstream in the pathway. Their results found that targeting one such enzyme, Kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO), significantly reduced the growth of brain cancer cells.

“We used brain cancer cells derived from brain cancer patients and targeted the KMO enzyme together with the delivery of the chemotherapy drug temozolomide (TMZ). We found this combination more powerful in reducing brain cancer growth than just targeting KMO by itself.”

Pictured: Dr Seray Adams working in the laboratory

The second part of the research has been to analyse brain cancer tissue samples to determine if the specific proteins in the kynurenine pathway can be used as biomarkers to help provide a more accurate diagnosis of brain cancer types.

“No one has investigated lower segments of the pathway before. We wanted to determine the clinical relevance of the proteins in the lower segment of the kynurenine pathway in glioblastoma. So far, we’ve characterised seven clinical enzymes from the lower segment,” Seray explains.

“So, the main goal of this part of the project is to identify tryptophan metabolism products as biomarkers that can be used as clinically useful tools to complement the more traditional diagnostic markers currently used. This could potentially improve prognostic and diagnostic accuracy. In addition, the research aims to predict the potential for tumour recurrence and its possible progression to a more aggressive tumour type.”

Seray’s research into brain cancer started seven years ago and would have ceased had she not received the More Data grant from the Charlie Teo Foundation.

“Without the support of the Charlie Teo Foundation we would not have been able to continue investigating our project as we had no other source of funding to keep it going. This funding was critical in helping us to achieve our research goals in our kynurenine pathway project. Our research is yielding important insights into understanding how this pathway disrupts the immune system and contributes to brain cancer aggressiveness. We have obtained some promising results that could identify a new immunotherapeutic treatment strategy for rare cancers.”

Seray is passionate about her work and is determined to continue to help brain cancer patients.

“Although there has been great progress in significantly improving patient survival of many other types of cancer, brain cancer survival rates are extremely low and have barely changed in the last 35 years representing one of the most challenging cancers to treat. This is what motivates me, the challenge and opportunity to use research to uncover cancer vulnerabilities and help make improvements in patient survival and potentially find a cure.”

“Any discovery I make in the laboratory, no matter how small, makes me feel I am one step closer to unravelling how brain cancer works. It’s the small but incremental progress we make as researchers that motivates me in the fight against brain cancer.”

Read more about this research project. 

December 2019

By Linda Music, Volunteer Health Writer for the Charlie Teo Foundation

Alegra was like many other girls her age. She went to school.  She loved dancing, going to gymnastics classes and dreamt that, one day, she would marry her “boyfriend,” Paris. But Alegra will never get married because, at just six years of age, an aggressive brain cancer has claimed her young life. Her death came a mere 10 months after diagnosis.

Josie was four when the same cancer that killed Alegra, claimed her life too. Josie loved to go swimming with her dad and delighted everyone who met her with her infectious giggles. She passed away on 14th December 2019, 21 months after diagnosis. 

Pictured: Alegra (Left) and Josie (Right)

Diffuse Midline Glioma (DMG), previously known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), is not only the most aggressive childhood brain cancer with an average survival rate of just nine months but is also responsible for half of all brain cancer deaths in children.

Buried deep inside the brain stem, these cancers are virtually impossible to treat. Radiotherapy is often used to extend survival, but the therapy comes with severe side effects. Surgery and chemotherapy have not shown to improve survival rates.

With such poor prognosis, the importance of research into this hostile cancer cannot be overstated. To this end, Charlie Teo Foundation together with Little Legs Foundation have joined together to help fight DMG by funding research into this aggressive disease through the ‘Alegra’s Army Grant’.

This year’s grant of $326K has been awarded to Dr Matt Dun, Team Leader of the Cancer Signalling Research Group (CSRG) at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, University of Newcastle, whose research into DMG titled, “Harnessing the power from within” began when his daughter, Josie, was diagnosed with DMG in February 2018.

Pictured: Little Legs Foundation Founders and Professor Charlie Teo

As a cancer researcher, Dr Dun had previously focused his work on a range of cancers including acute myeloid leukemia (AML), T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), and identifying new biomarkers for breast, colorectal and prostate cancers. However, after Josie’s diagnosis, Dr Dun discovered there was limited research into this cancer. Desperate to help his daughter and other children like her, Dr Dun turned his research focus to DMG in the hope of finding potential treatments that could slow or even reverse the cancer’s growth.

Charlie Teo Foundation’s Alegra’s Army grant funded by the Little Legs Foundation will provide valuable funds for Dr Dun to develop novel immunological therapies to help DMG patients use their own immune system to fight the cancer.

Josie and Alegra have passed. Too soon. Too young. But the commitment of dedicated researchers such as Dr Dun, supported by Charlie Teo Foundation and Little Legs Foundation, will mean that their legacies will ensure that one day, no child will have to suffer the same fate.

Read more about this research project