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Aaron E. Foster, PhD

Assistant Affiliate Member, Research Institute
Houston Methodist


Dr. Foster earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney in 2003. After a short postdoc in the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy supported by Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital, and The Methodist Hospital, Dr. Foster was appointed to a faculty position. In 2009, he joined THMRI as an Assistant Affiliate Member where he conducts research focusing on immunotherapeutic targeting of cancer and cancer stem cells.

Description of Research

Dr. Foster's laboratory conducts basic and translational research in tumor biology and immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer. His research interests include genetic modification of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) and activated T cells (ATC) to improve their function (e.g. tumor specificity, survival and persistence, in vivo migration) following injection into patients. Dr. Foster is also investigating the use of T cells as a novel antigen presenting cell (TAPC) for use as a cancer vaccine and to deliver therapeutic molecules throughout the body. In collaboration with Dr. Rebekah Drezek at Rice University, Dr. Foster is investigating the use of T cells for the therapeutic delivery of gold nanoparticles into tumors. In addition to gene therapy applications using T cells, he is also leading research on targeting cancer stem cells (CSC) using cancer vaccines, antigen-specific CTLs, and gene-modified ATCs. CSCs possess increased resistance to commonly used chemotherapy agents, but are sensitive to immune-mediated killing. Therefore, Dr Foster's group is identifying novel antigens in CSCs from a variety of malignancies, including lymphoma and leukemia, to develop immunotherapies aimed at eliminating drug resistance CSCs.

Areas Of Expertise

Cancer stem cells Immunotherapy Cancer vaccines T cell therapy
Education & Training

, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine
, University of Sydney

Systematically probing the bottom-up synthesis of AuPAMAM conjugates for enhanced transfection efficiency
Figueroa, ER, Stephen Yan, J, Chamberlain-Simon, NK, Lin, AY, Foster, AE & Drezek, RA 2016, Journal of Nanobiotechnology, vol 14, no. 1, 24. DOI:

Anti-tumor effects after adoptive transfer of IL-12 transposon-modified murine splenocytes in the OT-i-melanoma mouse model
Galvan, DL, ONeil, RT, Foster, AE, Huye, L, Bear, A, Rooney, CM & Wilson, MH 2015, PLoS ONE, vol 10, no. 10, e0140744. DOI:

In vivo gold nanoparticle delivery of peptide vaccine induces anti-tumor immune response in prophylactic and therapeutic tumor models
Almeida, JPM, Lin, AY, Figueroa, ER, Foster, AE & Drezek, RA 2015, Small, vol 11, no. 12, pp. 1453-1459. DOI:

Ultra low-dose IL-2 for GVHD prophylaxis after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation mediates expansion of regulatory t cells without diminishing antiviral and antileukemic activity
Kennedy-Nasser, AA, Ku, S, Castillo-Caro, P, Hazrat, Y, Wu, MF, Liu, H, Melenhorst, J, Barrett, AJ, Ito, S, Foster, A, Savoldo, B, Yvon, E, Carrum, G, Ramos, CA, Krance, RA, Leung, K, Heslop, HE, Brenner, MK & Bollard, CM 2014, Clinical Cancer Research, vol 20, no. 8, pp. 2215-2225. DOI:

In vivo immune cell distribution of gold nanoparticles in Naïve and tumor bearing mice
Almeida, JPM, Lin, AY, Langsner, RJ, Eckels, P, Foster, AE & Drezek, RA 2014, Small, vol 10, no. 4, pp. 812-819. DOI:

Controlling melanoma at local and systemic levels: Is a combination of ablative therapy and immunotherapy the way forward?
Almeida, JPM, Drezek, RA & Foster, AE 2014, Immunotherapy, vol 6, no. 2, pp. 109-111. DOI:

Optimization of PAMAM-gold nanoparticle conjugation for gene therapy
Figueroa, ER, Lin, AY, Yan, J, Luo, L, Foster, AE & Drezek, RA 2014, Biomaterials, vol 35, no. 5, pp. 1725-1734. DOI:

Modification of T Lymphocytes to express tumor antigens
Foster, AE & Song, XT 2014, Methods in Molecular Biology, vol 1139, pp. 169-176. DOI:

An adaptable system for improving transposon-based gene expression in vivo via transient transgene repression
Doherty, JE, Woodard, LE, Bear, AS, Foster, AE & Wilson, MH 2013, FASEB Journal, vol 27, no. 9, pp. 3753-3762. DOI:

The miR-223/nuclear factor I-A axis regulates glial precursor proliferation and tumorigenesis in the CNS
Glasgow, SM, Laug, D, Brawley, VS, Zhang, Z, Corder, A, Yin, Z, Wong, STC, Li, XN, Foster, AE, Ahmed, N & Deneen, B 2013, Journal of Neuroscience, vol 33, no. 33, pp. 13560-13568. DOI:

Elimination of Metastatic Melanoma Using Gold Nanoshell-Enabled Photothermal Therapy and Adoptive T Cell Transfer
Bear, AS, Kennedy, LC, Young, JK, Perna, SK, Mattos Almeida, JP, Lin, AY, Eckels, PC, Drezek, RA & Foster, AE 2013, PLoS ONE, vol 8, no. 7, e69073. DOI:

Gold Nanoparticle Delivery of Modified CpG Stimulates Macrophages and Inhibits Tumor Growth for Enhanced Immunotherapy
Lin, AY, Mattos Almeida, JP, Bear, A, Liu, N, Luo, L, Foster, AE & Drezek, RA 2013, PLoS ONE, vol 8, no. 5, e63550. DOI:

High-density sub-100-nm peptide-gold nanoparticle complexes improve vaccine presentation by dendritic cells in vitro
Lin, AY, Lunsford, J, Bear, AS, Young, JK, Eckels, P, Luo, L, Foster, AE & Drezek, RA 2013, Nanoscale Research Letters, vol 8, no. 1, pp. 1-11. DOI:

Nanoparticles for targeting T cells in allergy and inflammatory airway conditions
Bear, A, Carpin, LB, Cruz, CR, Drezek, RA & Foster, AE 2012, . in Pulmonary Nanomedicine: Diagnostics, Imaging, and Therapeutics. Pan Stanford Publishing Pte. Ltd. pp. 135-166. DOI:

Sox9 and NFIA Coordinate a Transcriptional Regulatory Cascade during the Initiation of Gliogenesis
Kang, P, Lee, HK, Glasgow, SM, Finley, M, Donti, T, Gaber, ZB, Graham, BH, Foster, AE, Novitch, BG, Gronostajski, RM & Deneen, B 2012, Neuron, vol 74, no. 1, pp. 79-94. DOI:

T cells as vehicles for cancer vaccination
Bear, AS, Cruz, CR & Foster, AE 2011, Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, vol 2011, 417403. DOI:

T cells as vehicles for cancer vaccination.
Bear, AS, Cruz, CR & Foster, AE 2011, Journal of Biomedicine & Biotechnology, vol 2011.

In vivo biodistribution of nanoparticles
Almeida, JPM, Chen, AL, Foster, A & Drezek, R 2011, Nanomedicine, vol 6, no. 5, pp. 815-835. DOI:

T cells enhance gold nanoparticle delivery to tumors in vivo
Kennedy, LC, Bear, AS, Young, JK, Lewinski, NA, Kim, J, Foster, AE & Drezek, RA 2011, Nanoscale Research Letters, vol 6, no. 1. DOI:

T cells expressing constitutively active Akt resist multiple tumor-associated inhibitory mechanisms
Sun, J, Dotti, G, Huye, LE, Foster, AE, Savoldo, B, Gramatges, MM, Spencer, DM & Rooney, CM 2010, Molecular Therapy, vol 18, no. 11, pp. 2006-2017. DOI: