Charlie’s Letters « Charlie Teo Foundation

Stimulating new thinking

Charlie Teo Foundation is proud to announce over $2.3 million in new brain cancer research grants! We fund radical research backed by strong scientific merit. We believe that new thinking is critical to finally uncovering the key to curing brain cancer.

We are excited to share our research progress and future plans with you in the latest letter from our founder, Dr Charlie Teo.

8th December 2021

Hello friends,

Sabbatical leave was designed to stimulate new thinking in academics who typically became set in their ways when confined to the same intellectual environment for years.

I am happy to say that the concept works.

The last 3 months have been incredibly stimulating, refreshing, intellectually challenging and revitalising. I have met with, lectured to and learnt from neurosurgeons and neuro-scientists across the globe.

Starting in Germany in August followed by Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, I have given 35 presentations in Europe, 56 in North America and met with over 860 surgeons and scientists from some of the most prestigious institutions in the world. 

From Europe I travelled to Canada for 2 weeks where I continued my academic tour visiting famous centres such as McGill University and the University of Toronto. In the USA I have been in deep discussions with brain cancer scientists in New York, Houston, Austin and Miami. I taught a cadaver course at Henry Ford School of Medicine, followed by New Orleans to teach a seminar on keyhole neurosurgery.

I spent the last month in India, learning and teaching where I encountered novel projects being pursued in a country that is typified by industrious and innovative thinkers. 

Starting in Germany in August followed by Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, I have given 35 presentations in Europe, 56 in North America and met with over 860 surgeons and scientists from some of the most prestigious institutions in the world. 

From Europe I travelled to Canada for 2 weeks where I continued my academic tour visiting famous centres such as McGill University and the University of Toronto. In the USA I have been in deep discussions with brain cancer scientists in New York, Houston, Austin and Miami. I taught a cadaver course at Henry Ford School of Medicine, followed by New Orleans to teach a seminar on keyhole neurosurgery.

I spent the last month in India, learning and teaching where I encountered novel projects being pursued in a country that is typified by industrious and innovative thinkers. 

We scour the world for industrious and innovative thinkers who aren’t afraid to break the mould.

Progress and Publications

Brain cancer is an intelligent cancer. It teaches itself how to beat therapies and develop resistance. It builds its scaffolding – it has its own blood supply and self-supplies with oxygen and nutrients. Put all this together and this is why it’s been so hard to beat brain cancer. But there absolutely is hope. It will take some time, and we have seen some recent progress that can improve survival but only by a matter of months.

We must hold hope that by taking our focused and radical approach to research funding, of all the different types of therapies we’re pursuing, one of them will eventually come out as a definitive, good treatment for brain cancer.

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

GBM-on-a-Chip

Dr Chou was one of our very first ‘Teo Research Rebels’. With our funding, he has successfully built the world’s very first, fully functional brain tumour on a microchip. This ‘chip’ consists of multiple layers including a blood brain barrier, blood vessels and a 3D printed brain tumour. This has never been done before. Dr Chou’s work was recently published in Advanced Therapeutics – you can read it below.

Dr Chou’s team built Australia’s first-ever microgravity device for looking at cancer cells. They have already shown that under microgravity, the most aggressive type of brain cancer is disrupted. The brain cancer is unable to form and stops growing.

As he moves into the second year of his grant, Dr Chou also discovered how to ‘open’ the blood brain barrier, to allow more drugs to get through to treat the brain cancer. The experiment his team are working on now is how to properly control and time this. I’ll keep you updated of Dr Chou’s progress.

Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank

The Open Journal of BioResources recently published about the Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank (CTF biobank). It is a NSW Health Pathology certified biobank. We established the CTF biobank to produce and share high-quality, well-annotated, biological and clinical data that has the potential to drive further innovation and scientific breakthroughs.

With my patients’ consent, we have collected samples of human tissue, live cells, DNA and blood. Researchers can apply to use the valuable specimens and data to be used for brain cancer research. I was doing this for 10 years – so the CTF biobank is an incredibly important data resource!

We are open and transparent about our biobank processes in the paper

 

including consenting and material handling procedures, quality assurance measures and processes for accessing materials.

Single-cell RNA Sequencing

At our first ever Rebel Ball in 2019, I officially announced the brain cancer collaboration between the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Charlie Teo Foundation. We brought together two teams with unique genomics expertise and data resources to tackle brain cancer.

The collaboration is led by Prof Joseph Powell, Director of the Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics. Our aim was to generate high-quality data from my patients with high-grade brain tumours, collected from the CTF biobank. I am pleased to report that we succeeded!

Led by Joseph, the team generated single-cell (RNA and DNA) sequencing and spatial transcriptomics on over 100 brain cancer tissue samples. This is now fast and possible with advancements in technology. Bioinformatics experts

analysed the data to detect patterns and trends. What they found means we can now predict how cell states transform into lethal brain cancer cells.

And this is just the beginning…

Progress and Publications

Brain cancer is an intelligent cancer. It teaches itself how to beat therapies and develop resistance. It builds its scaffolding – it has its own blood supply and self-supplies with oxygen and nutrients. Put all this together and this is why it’s been so hard to beat brain cancer. But there absolutely is hope. It will take some time, and we have seen some recent progress that can improve survival but only by a matter of months.

We must hold hope that by taking our focused and radical approach to research funding, of all the different types of therapies we’re pursuing, one of them will eventually come out as a definitive, good treatment for brain cancer.

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

GBM-on-a-Chip

Dr Chou was one of our very first ‘Teo Research Rebels’. With our funding, he has successfully built the world’s very first, fully functional brain tumour on a microchip. This ‘chip’ consists of multiple layers including a blood brain barrier, blood vessels and a 3D printed brain tumour. This has never been done before. Dr Chou’s work was recently published in Advanced Therapeutics – you can read it below.

Dr Chou’s team built Australia’s first-ever microgravity device for looking at cancer cells. They have already shown that under microgravity, the most aggressive type of brain cancer is disrupted. The brain cancer is unable to form and stops growing.

As he moves into the second year of his grant, Dr Chou also discovered how to ‘open’ the blood brain barrier, to allow more drugs to get through to treat the brain cancer. The experiment his team are working on now is how to properly control and time this. I’ll keep you updated of Dr Chou’s progress.

Citation: Silvani G, Basirun C, Wu H, Mehner C, Poole K, Bradbury P, Chou J. A 3D-Bioprinted Vascularized Glioblastoma-on-a-Chip for Studying the Impact of Simulated Microgravity as a Novel Pre-Clinical Approach in Brain Tumor Therapy. Advanced Therapeutics.2021;2100106. 

Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank

The Open Journal of BioResources recently published about the Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank (CTF biobank). It is a NSW Health Pathology certified biobank. We established the CTF biobank to produce and share high-quality, well-annotated, biological and clinical data that has the potential to drive further innovation and scientific breakthroughs.

With my patients’ consent, we have collected samples of human tissue, live cells, DNA and blood. Researchers can apply to use the valuable specimens and data to be used for brain cancer research. I was doing this for 10 years – so the CTF biobank is an incredibly important data resource!

We are open and transparent about our biobank processes in the paper including consenting and material handling procedures, quality assurance measures and processes for accessing materials.

Citation: Caixeiro, N.J., Po, J.W., Zaman, A., Sughrue, M.E. and Teo, C., 2021. Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank. Open Journal of Bioresources, 8, p.3. 

Single-cell RNA Sequencing

At our first ever Rebel Ball in 2019, I officially announced the brain cancer collaboration between the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Charlie Teo Foundation. We brought together two teams with unique genomics expertise and data resources to tackle brain cancer.

The collaboration is led by Prof Joseph Powell, Director of the Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics. Our aim was to generate high-quality data from my patients with high-grade brain tumours, collected from the CTF biobank. I am pleased to report that we succeeded!

Led by Joseph, the team generated single-cell (RNA and DNA) sequencing and spatial transcriptomics on over 100 brain cancer tissue samples.

This is now fast and possible with advancements in technology. Bioinformatics experts analysed the data to detect patterns and trends. What they found means we can now predict how cell states transform into lethal brain cancer cells.

And this is just the beginning…

We fund radical research backed by strong scientific merit.

Grant Announcements

Charlie Teo Foundation funds radical research backed by strong scientific merit. We take a focused, disciplined and proactive approach to funding research. We scour the world for industrious and innovative thinkers who aren’t afraid to break the mould. We fund within key research themes of More Data, Better Tools and our Teo Research Rebels.

I believe this approach will drive us towards to achieving our ultimate goal – to beat brain cancer.

I am excited to officially announce that in the last 6 months since I last wrote to you, Charlie Teo Foundation has awarded 6 new brain cancer research grants totalling over AU $2.3 million. Let me introduce you to our newest grant recipients:

More Data

Prof Joseph Powell – Down to the single cell

Prof Powell will now use the data and bioinformatics insights gained under our collaboration to date, to find treatment targets for brain cancer patients.

His team will analyse further brain cancer tissue samples from the CTF biobank, then fine tune the machine learning algorithms. Using real-world patient characteristics, the team will be looking for any critical treatment opportunities. We have awarded a further grant of $872k for this exciting work.

Better Tools

Dr Jessica Buck – New ways to treat kids

Dr Buck is an early career childhood brain cancer researcher, one of Australia’s Superstars of STEM in 2021 and a proud Kamilaroi woman. She is the first Aboriginal woman to graduate with a doctorate from Oxford University.

Dr Buck is a fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth and her focus is on finding more effective, less harmful treatments for children with brain cancer. We awarded Dr Buck a grant of $199k to develop new laboratory techniques to determine which immunotherapy drugs are most effective in childhood cancers. Dr Buck’s work will aim to fast-track immunotherapy drugs into the clinic.

Prof Amy Heimberger – Brain cancer takes the STING

Immunotherapy has really been giving us hope with many other cancers but not so much in brain cancer. The body cannot detect the brain tumour, making it ‘invisible’ to the immune system. We have awarded a grant of $499k to Prof Heimberger of Northwestern University to investigate the effectiveness of a new drug called STING (stimulator of interferon genes) that will kickstart an immune response.

The aim is to turn non-responsive tumours – known as ‘cold tumours’ – into a ‘hot’ tumour that the body can now see to attack the cancer. Prof Heimberger is also a life-long dog lover and has already helped to treat dogs suffering from brain cancer with this new treatment approach.

Prof Michael Keidar – A new wave to treat GBM

We have awarded $374k to Prof Keidar at George Washington University to build a new kind of helmet device to treat GBM patients. You might remember me talking about a helmet device in our Ask Charlie series as a promising advancement in GBM treatments in recent years. However, the existing FDA-approved treatment can be invasive for patients – the helmet may be worn for up to 22 hours per day, requires regular head shaving and can cause skin irritation and disturb sleep.

Prof Keidar plans to use his 25 years’ experience in plasma-based nanotechnology, cold plasma physics and applications in biotechnology to make significant improvements to the existing treatment.

So how will it work? Like pores of the skin, cells have pores too. Using high frequency electromagnetic waves that emit from the helmet, Prof Keidar aims to open the ‘pores’ of the brain cancer cells only, making them more responsive to chemotherapy, and leaving the healthy cells intact. His helmet device only needs to be worn for a short time by patients, making it much less invasive than the existing FDA-approved method. We desperately need better treatments like this for GBM!

Teo Research Rebels

Dr Guillermo Gomez – A novel combination of AI and invention

We have awarded a grant of $200k to Dr Gomez, an Argentinian cancer cell biologist with a laboratory at the University of South Australia. He’s harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse vast volumes of brain tumour images. Dr Gomez is bringing this powerhouse of data together with a tool he helped to invent for growing 3D brain tumours, known as an organoid.

With this novel combination, he strives to find new GBM treatments. Dr Gomez is definitely thinking outside the box here!

Prof Johanna Joyce – Real-time live imaging

Prof Joyce started her own laboratory in 2005 in New York, USA. She is someone who always likes to go against convention in her research, which is what makes her a ‘rebel’. Her lab, now at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, has recently developed a unique technology to live image brain cancer in preclinical models in real-time.

We have awarded a grant of $200k for the team to literally look directly inside the tumour itself to study how brain cancer develops and is altered by exposure to different treatments over time. This is exciting progress, and the strategy is a first in the cancer field.

Charlie Teo Foundation plans to far outlive me, and not cease until it has achieved our shared goal – to beat brain cancer.

I want to give you my assurance that I will never give up the fight against brain cancer until the day I die. Charlie Teo Foundation has a strategy in place and plans to carry out its work funding brain cancer research for years into the future. Whilst I would love to see a cure for brain cancer in my lifetime, and I am hopeful that progress WILL occur in my lifetime, I concede that I may not be living on this Earth to see a cure. Charlie Teo Foundation plans to far outlive me, and not cease until it has achieved our shared goal – to beat brain cancer.

Lots of love to you all, have a wonderful festive season, think of and give to those less fortunate at this time, and by doing so, you’ll enjoy your down time, your families and your blessings so much more. 

Finally, I invite you to make a donation to the Charlie Teo Foundation this festive season. Bianca is someone less fortunate, diagnosed with brain cancer in October 2020 at the age of 45. She now has an average survival of just 15 months. Bianca is in the prime of her life. A mother to 5 beautiful children and a police officer. She has dedicated her life to serving her community, and it just isn’t acceptable or fair the fate that Bianca and so many others face.

So please, read Bianca’s Battle and consider making a donation to help fund brain cancer research so desperately needed to extend and save lives.    

Xx

Finally, I invite you to make a donation to the Charlie Teo Foundation this festive season. Bianca is someone less fortunate, diagnosed with brain cancer in October 2020 at the age of 45. She now has an average survival of just 15 months. Bianca is in the prime of her life. A mother to 5 beautiful children and a police officer. She has dedicated her life to serving her community, and it just isn’t acceptable or fair the fate that Bianca and so many others face.

So please, read Bianca’s Battle and consider making a donation to help fund brain cancer research so desperately needed to extend and save lives.    

Xx

Charlie

Dr Charlie Teo AM
Founder

Let’s make sure Bianca and the many people that will follow are not just another statistic.

Donate today to fund radical research at the cutting-edge of scientific discoveries.

Thank you for your support!