Charlie’s Letters « Charlie Teo Foundation

When the exception becomes the rule

May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month. To all our brain cancer community, this month we honour you. We are in awe of the courage, strength and tenacity displayed by so many of you when facing a diagnosis with brain cancer.

At the Charlie Teo Foundation we continue to work hard to offer you hope. You are at the centre of our quest to find and fund brain cancer researchers who think outside the box. We are looking for the answers that you need to live a long life and fulfil all your dreams and life’s ambitions.

In his latest letter, Charlie shows you what potentially game-changing research we have been working on to finally uncover the answers needed to better treat this devastating disease.

5th May 2021

Hello friends,

When you turn on the TV and the news, invariably you see a story about death and disaster, particularly at the moment. It would be easy to get a sense of hopelessness and futility. Yet everyday people approach life with a sense of perseverance.

As a neurosurgeon, I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from my patients what it means to demonstrate that kind of perseverance, even when the odds are against you. People diagnosed with brain cancer are forced to face an unimaginable fate. Their lives are measured in months and weeks, and their hopes and dreams may never be achieved. Sometimes they are told to go home and make arrangements for end of life. 

When you are staring down the barrel at death, suddenly your grip on life becomes a whole lot tighter. It is at this time that people display incredible courage, driven by the hope that they may be the exception to the rule.

When you are staring down the barrel at death, suddenly your grip on life becomes a whole lot tighter. It is at this time that people display incredible courage, driven by the hope that they may be the exception to the rule.

Emma (pictured) is the exception to the rule. I was delighted to recently receive this beautiful message from Emma, enclosed with a Christmas card that I had sent to Emma and her parents in December 1991, 30 years ago.

 

“Charlie, when I was 4 years old you operated on me and I thank you for removing the brain tumour I had then. It recurred when I was 12 years old & was removed after 2 more operations. I’m now healthy and married with 3 healthy children. After 3 operations and a few permanent side effects, I am so grateful that I am alive and I’m able to celebrate 21 years Brain Cancer free with my family.”

Emma (pictured) is the exception to the rule. I was delighted to recently receive this beautiful message from Emma, enclosed with a Christmas card that I had sent to Emma and her parents in December 1991, 30 years ago.

“Charlie, when I was 4 years old you operated on me and I thank you for removing the brain tumour I had then. It recurred when I was 12 years old & was removed after 2 more operations. I’m now healthy and married with 3 healthy children. After 3 operations and a few permanent side effects, I am so grateful that I am alive and I’m able to celebrate 21 years Brain Cancer free with my family.”

 

Charlie Teo Foundation focuses on research as we want to make the exception become the new rule. We want to make high-grade brain cancers survivable, so never again does a patient have to hear, ‘we can’t cure you, we can only buy you time’.

So how do you make the un-survivable, survivable? There are plenty of real-life examples of scientific discoveries where things we never thought possible, are now possible. They did it by going against the grain, by pushing boundaries, by rebuffing groupthink. This is what we are trying to achieve, and COVID-19 has not halted our efforts. 

Grant Announcements

We proactively seek out who we consider to be the best brains from around the globe to study brain cancer for the benefit of Australian patients. Let me introduce you to our newest researchers:

Prof Eran Elinav – Could gut health be the key to brain cancer?

We’re exploring uncharted territory

We now know there is a link between the gut microbiome, aka your ‘gut health’, and the brain. What has been recently discovered is that the gut microbiome could actually be the cause of some other neurological conditions and cancers. I’ve always wondered whether this link extends to brain cancer, and so we’ve sought out an expert to study this for the first time!

Prof Elinav is a gastroenterologist and guru in gut health at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. He and his team were the first to show that the gut microbiome could not only trigger the neurogenerative disease, ALS, but also affect its severity. We have awarded $200,000 to find out if such a link exists to the cause, prevention, or even treatment of brain cancer. If a link is found, harnessing the microbes and their secreted products may lead to new biological therapies to prevent and treat brain cancers.

Prof Steve Kay – Blocking the biological clock of GBM stem cells

We’re going after the root of the problem

A Provost Professor of neurology, biomedical engineering and biological sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California in the U.S., Prof Kay is a pioneer in the study of circadian rhythms (body clocks) that regulate hundreds of activities, from sleep to digestion to body temperature. His team examined the biological clocks of glioblastoma (GBM) stem cells. These are the stubborn cancer cells which are currently impossible to eradicate even after surgery, chemo and radiation therapy. The team found the GBM stem cells are “on overdrive” making them stronger and more resistant to treatment and able to divide and multiply rapidly.

A small-molecule drug has already been developed by his team to target the proteins in the biological clock of the GBM stem cells to disrupt their activity and cause the cancer cells to die. We have awarded $273,000 to Prof Kay to further test and compare this new drug with the current standard of care. This is a really promising discovery and if successful, would become part of and improve standard of care for patients.

Program updates

Not only do we award research grants, but we run our own research program too.

Biobank

Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank (biobank) is the largest, certified, biobank of its kind in the southern hemisphere, collecting brain tumour samples from surgery and making them available for researchers to access and use in their research. By doing this, we’re making it possible for brain cancer to be studied faster giving hope to brain cancer patients.

Since it became operational, we have added brain cancers to the biobank to now house samples from over 600 patients. Below is a summary of the work of the biobank in the 2020 calendar year

Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank

2020 Impact

Brain cancer samples from 95 patients Collected by Charlie Teo Foundation

179 brain cancer samples Accessed by brain cancer researchers

4 brain cancer projects Supported by Charlie Teo Foundation

Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank

2020 Impact

Brain cancer samples from 95 patients

Collected by Charlie Teo 

Foundation

179 brain cancer samples 

Accessed by brain cancer 

researchers

4 brain cancer projects 

Supported by Charlie Teo 

Foundation

Charlie Teo Foundation focuses on research as we want to make the exception become the new rule.

This Brain Cancer Awareness Month I want you to think of people with brain cancer. They are thrust totally out of their comfort zone, facing the biggest challenge of their life.

This May I am inviting you to join me in a personal challenge, and together we can tackle brain cancer head-on. I would like you to do something that displays a sense of spirit, focus or courage, just like I see in my patients. I have set myself the challenge to learn a new skill – something that inspires me creatively and is good for my brain health. I am learning to play the guitar!

Find out more about how to join me and take the challenge at the end of my letter. Together, with your support, we can see the exception become the rule.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Xx

Charlie

Prof Charlie Teo AM
Founder

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