Charlie’s Letters « Charlie Teo Foundation

Unconventional thinkers & new world shapers

Charlie Teo Foundation is proud to share with you our latest letter showcasing the impact of our research and announcing over $2 million in new research grants!

In our first 5 years, the Charlie Teo Foundation has committed over $10 million to brain cancer research. We have found and funded unconventional thinkers who are reshaping the future for people with brain cancer.

With your support, we continue to forge ahead. Please make your tax-deductible donation by 30 June to keep this momentum going. Together we can truly make an impact!

Thank you for your generous support. It truly means the world to us.

x Alana & Charlie

Alana Phadke, CEO & Dr Charlie Teo, Founder of the Charlie Teo Foundation. Photography by Interdisciplinary Artist Alina Gozin’a

17th May 2023

Hello Friends,

Those of you who have been inflicted or have relatives inflicted by brain cancer, I know you understand how it’s just a terrible disease. You’re labelled with a use-by date as soon as you’re diagnosed and then you must try and get on with living life knowing that you’ve been handed a death sentence.  

Charlie Teo Foundation has been designed to give you hope that other people care about your plight. That other people, scientists in Australia and all around the world, are trying desperately to find treatments and a cure. I call these people our unconventional thinkers and new world shapers. Why? Simply because we believe they are going to transform the future for people inflicted by brain cancer. They are going to reshape your world, and YOU can help make it happen.

17th May 2023

Hello Friends,

Those of you who have been inflicted or have relatives inflicted by brain cancer, I know you understand how it’s just a terrible disease. You’re labelled with a use-by date as soon as you’re diagnosed and then you must try and get on with living life knowing that you’ve been handed a death sentence.  

Charlie Teo Foundation has been designed to give you hope that other people care about your plight. That other people, scientists in Australia and all around the world, are trying desperately to find treatments and a cure. I call these people our unconventional thinkers and new world shapers. Why? Simply because we believe they are going to transform the future for people inflicted by brain cancer. They are going to reshape your world, and YOU can help make it happen.

I have been busy operating and teaching neurosurgery around the world, as well as my grounding passions in Australia of seeing patients and giving my time to the Charlie Teo Foundation. Australia will always be where I call home. My family and heart is here, including my new grandson little Max, and the Charlie Teo Foundation has its roots here.

I feel saddened by my recent experiences at the hands of the Australian medical system. But at the same time, I am invigorated by the work I continue to do around the world. I continue to be intellectually aroused by truly incredible minds in science and medicine. These thinkers rebuff convention, and I have no doubt they are going to transform the future of brain cancer treatments in the not too distant future…

Dr Teo speaking at the 10th Academic Congress of International Chinese Neurosurgical Sciences
Dr Roel Verdaak of Yale University

Last month I was a keynote speaker at the 10th Academic Congress of International Chinese Neurosurgical Sciences. I was honoured to be recognised at the conference for injecting unlimited academic strength and firm forward belief in the field of brain cancer and for promoting the development of neurosurgery throughout the world.

Another international speaker at the conference was Charlie Teo Foundation funded researcher, Professor Roel Verhaak, who has recently joined the Department of Neurosurgery at the Yale School of Medicine. Prof Verhaak is a real out of the box thinker whose research contributed to the definition of clinical categories of brain cancer that are now used by the World Health Organisation. Thank you to Prof Verhaak for acknowledging the Charlie Teo Foundation in his fascinating talk!

We are committed to changing the outcomes for brain cancer patients within our lifetime! - Prof. Roel Verdaak, Yale University

Grant Announcements

We are proud to officially announce that the Charlie Teo Foundation has awarded over $2 million in new brain cancer research grants to scientists who epitomise unconventional thinking. 

Dr Jacky Yeung – Removing roadblocks to immunotherapy for GBM

Dr Jacky Yeung, the first in the Yale Neurosurgery department to perform a type of minimally invasive spinal surgery in New London.

Dr Jacky Yeung is a fellowship-trained neurosurgeon AND scientist at Yale University. Not only is he an expert on the human brain connectome, but he also studied brain tumour immunology under world-renowned immunologist Dr Lieping Chen.

Dr Yeung is among the first to fully characterise the tumour immune microenvironment in a type of rare brain cancer, and identified how these tumours evade anti-tumour immunity.

We have awarded Dr Yeung a grant of $418k to work to resolve one of the greatest problems in brain tumour immunotherapy.

Recently Dr Yeung’s research group identified a new key molecule, which works together with another molecule to regulate the behaviour of blood vessels in tumours.

From preliminary data generated using advanced genetic analysis, the research team has determined that these two molecules exist in brain cancers, specifically GBM. This project aims to block these molecules, so immune cells can travel inside tumours and slow down growth.

Such a molecule has never been discovered before for changing the characteristic of a tumour blood vessel. Its potential for treating brain cancers is simply untapped.

We know in real world clinical trials, regular immunotherapy does not work in brain cancers, but this work may hold the key in unleashing the body’s immune system to battle brain cancers with minimal side effects.

Dr Jacky Yeung, neuroscientist & neurosurgeon

Prof Matt Dun – I-DIMENSIONS: New subtyping system for DIPG/DMG

Dun Lab with DIPG patient, Maddie Suy

Today is a very special day as 17 May is DIPG/DMG Awareness Day. It is therefore serendipitous that today we are announcing this significant grant to Prof Matt Dun in the amount of $1.65M to create a new subtyping system for DIPG/DMG. This is the second grant we have awarded to Prof Dun. 

Prof Dun is a DIPG/DMG researcher – the most aggressive childhood brain cancer. He personally knows the hopelessness of hearing that his own daughter’s brain cancer was ‘untreatable’, and losing her at age 4 to this devastating disease. Through his brain cancer research, Prof Dun will not stop until he has changed the ‘go home and make memories’ message that DIPG/DMG families currently face, just as he faced.

I-DIMENSIONS is an ambitious project aiming to characterise the genomic, proteomic, methylomic, epigenetic and spatial transcriptomic features of aggressive brain tumours such as DMG. With this information, the research team will develop a classification system based on the biological drivers of tumour growth and therapy response/resistance.

 I-DIMENSIONS will be developed thanks to the Dun Lab’s analysis of more than 200 tumour samples (including samples from the Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank), with additional samples to be analysed and the data included as they become available.

This project aims to provide medical and research scientists with new data that unlocks effective treatment strategies for DMG. By looking at tumours as a sum of their biological systems (rather than via a single-featured lens), we hope that the developed subtyping system will inform the creation of a therapy selection tool used by clinicians to extend the survival of children diagnosed with brain cancer in the future.

Alana Phadke, CEO of the Charlie Teo Foundation with Prof Matt Dun of Uni of Newcastle and Alan Suy, DIPG father

This is the largest research grant ever awarded by the Charlie Teo Foundation to date.

You can watch Prof Dun on ABC News recently calling for more funding for this terrible disease. 

DIPG/DMG research is significantly underfunded in this country. To date, Charlie Teo Foundation has awarded $2.7 million into DIPG/DMG specific research. Compare this to the Australian Federal Government that has awarded $970,000 to DIPG/DMG research over the same period. It is therefore being left up to research foundations like us and scientists like Prof Dun to change the future for these children and families.

We are working to change the status quo for research, transforming all that has held back innovation and progress in brain cancer

Progress & Publications

Here’s a snapshot of some recent progress and publications of Charlie Teo Foundation funded projects.

Harnessing the power from within to tackle DIPG/DMG

Alegra's Army photo by Bokeh & Co. From left: DIPG dads Alan Suy & Tamer Daher, Sue-Ellan & Marino Vasiliou, Alegra's parents and co-founder of Little Legs Foundation together with Prof Matt Dun, our ambassador Marcella Zemanek & Dr Charlie Teo

Prof Matt Dun was the first ever recipient of the Alegra’s Army Research Grant awarded in partnership with the Little Legs Foundation. This grant was awarded in December 2019, with Prof Dun’s daughter Josephine taken by DIPG/DMG within the same month at age 4. Ever since, Prof Dun and his Dun Lab have been entirely dedicated to moving towards a cure.

Through the Alegra’s Army Grant, Prof Dun and the Dun Lab have been studying the surface of DIPG/DMG cells to find tumour-specific features that may be used to develop an immune-based therapy, as DMGs do not get detected by the body’s own immune response without being directed to do so. CAR T treatments involve modifying the patient’s immune system to recognise tumour cells as “foreign”, and subsequently launch an immune response to fight tumour growth and survival.

The work of the Dun Lab has identified a promising, tumour-specific, CAR T target. Their ongoing studies are testing whether this protein is indeed tumour-specific (to not cause harm to non-tumour/healthy cells) and will progress to development of a CAR T therapy upon confirmation.

Today, more than 100 children worldwide have received therapies that Prof Dun has discovered for DIPG/DMG. This is all thanks to generous philanthropic support from charities like the Charlie Teo Foundation, and the brave and selfless donations of tumour cells/tissue by the families of children diagnosed with brain cancers including from the Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank.

DIPG families together at the Dun Lab

Biobanking for the Future

Close to 450 biospecimens spanning 15 years of brain tumour patients are being shared by the Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank with Australian brain cancer researchers.

Biospecimens in the Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank (CTFBTB) have been collected from Dr Charlie Teo’s patients over the last 15 years. This makes it an incredibly important and unique resource for brain cancer research and tracking tumour progression.  

Take a deep-dive into the latest progress of the CTFBTB including a summary of the research projects where biospecimens have been approved or accessed from the CTFBTB.

Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank is sharing crucial high-grade brain tumour material, enabling scientists to understand how these deadly tumours are programmed so we can finally develop new treatments. – Prof Jeff Holst, University of New South Wales – Sydney

Many major breakthroughs in medical science and cancer research have been made by left-field thinkers like Dr Jacky Yeung and Prof Matt Dun. These people think outside the box and are disruptive in their approach. But sadly, they are often not funded.

So I encourage you to make your tax-time gift today to fund these unconventional thinkers in their pursuit of a cure. Being a low-cost charity, we run lean so that your tax-deductible donations go straight to funding brilliant, original minds to go where no brain cancer researcher has gone before.

Even better, become a new world shaper by giving a regular monthly gift. A regular gift helps us better prepare to transform the future.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your ongoing support.

Xx

Charlie

Charlie

Dr Charlie Teo AM
Founder