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