Charlie’s Letters « Charlie Teo Foundation

Our future is our youth

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 have 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 all too often. 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 (pictured) 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 brothers. 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 (AIHW 2017). It knocks our young out of the workforce and society in the prime of their life.

Harry (pictured) 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 brothers. 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 (AIHW 2017). 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. 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 those we have found and consider to be the best brains from Australia and around the globe. Let me introduce you to our newest researchers:

Dr Y. Alan Wang - A new experimental drug

We’re bringing new treatments to the table

We’ve encouraged the collaboration of an Australian pharmaceutical research company, Pharmaxis, and a cancer biologist at one of the most prestigious comprehensive cancer centres in the U.S., MD Anderson, to test new experimental drug PXS-5505. The Pharmaxis drug has already received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for treating myelofibrosis, a type of blood cancer. The drug has the potential to treat brain cancer, by breaking down the tumour’s surrounding environment to enhance the effect of treatments. We have awarded the team $187,000 to conduct the experiments it needs to prove that the drug will facilitate the killing of brain cancer cells. This work will fast track PXS-5505 to potentially being tested in clinical trials of brain cancer patients.

A/Prof Jeff Holst - Starving brain cancer

We’re cutting off its energy supply

A biomedical scientist at the University of New South Wales, we have awarded $136,500 to Jeff to find a way to stop the growth of brain cancer by cutting off its energy supply. We will provide fresh brain tumour samples from the Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank for his team to look at starving 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 metabolomics data collected on the energy sources feeding brain cancer cells will be integrated and matched with the genetic data, creating the ultimate roadmap for destroying brain cancer.

A/Prof Peter Fecci - Unshackling the immune system

We're sending in the troops

After decades of failures, scientists finally found effective ways of turning the immune system against cancers (known as immunotherapy) with spectacular results – except for in brain cancer. Peter, a neurosurgeon from Duke University in the U.S. is an expert on T-cells. These T-cells are part of our immune system that locate and eliminate potential threats to keep you healthy. The problem with brain cancer is that the T-cells are often trapped in the bone marrow. Peter was one of the first to identify this T-cell dysfunction in brain cancer. Working alongside 2012 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, Prof Robert J. Lefkowitz, we have awarded the team $477,343 to find out how we can release the T-cells from the bone marrow so they can travel through the body to fight the brain cancer.  

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 remain at under 20% of total income (which include both admin costs & fundraising costs) 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 are 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.

Xx

Charlie

Prof Charlie Teo AM
Founder

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