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A Conversation with LBF Scientific Advisor, Jessica Foster

In 2023, the Lilabean Foundation experienced significant growth, expanding from one Scientific Advisor to a Council of three esteemed professionals. We were thrilled to welcome Dr. Jessica Foster and Dr. Mateusz Koptyra, alongside Dr. Brian Rood, as members of this esteemed advisory group.


Today, we have the pleasure of introducing Dr. Jessica Foster through an engaging Q&A session. Dr. Foster is a distinguished clinician and researcher, dedicating her expertise to both patient care and groundbreaking research endeavors. With over a decade of experience at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, her focus lies in pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors. Driven by a passion for improving outcomes, she and her team are pioneering innovative approaches, including leveraging the immune system to combat these challenging cancers.


Join us as we delve into Dr. Foster's journey, her pioneering work, and the profound motivation behind her dedication.


Q: What led you to specialize in pediatric brain cancer research & treatment?


Dr. Foster: I was intrigued by both the brain and cancer from an early age, starting in high school. My major in college was neuroscience, and it was during college I decided to pursue a career in medicine, and I was already drawn to pediatric oncology. This interest never waivered during my residency, and I ultimately chose the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for my fellowship training so I could learn more about the cutting-edge CAR T cell technology. Once I arrived at CHOP I finally put all my passions together, focusing on pediatric neuro-oncology and researching novel immune-based therapies, specifically focusing on CAR T cells for central nervous system tumors.



Q: As both a clinician and a researcher, how do you balance the emotional challenges of working with pediatric patients with the scientific and medical aspects of your job?

 

Dr. Foster: I am never more motivated to get back into the lab and help find a cure than after my time attending on the inpatient service. Seeing patients directly inspires me to ask more questions and try to find better answers. As a mother myself, taking care of pediatric patients can hit quite hard emotionally. I try to use that as fuel to work harder and push our research forward, faster.

 


Q: How do you stay hopeful and positive in the face of such a challenging disease?


Dr. Foster: I believe we are on the cusp of dramatically changing the outcomes for patients with CNS tumors. Looking back at pediatric oncology history, the treatment of leukemia changed over the course of a few decades with a deeper understanding of the cancer’s biology and well-run, large-scale, clinical trials. We are now at that point for pediatric CNS tumors where we are truly understanding the biology of all the diverse tumor types and using that knowledge to design thoughtful trials.



Q: How do you incorporate research findings into your clinical practice?


Dr. Foster: I am constantly scouring the literature for new data for all of my patients. For many, there is a standard of care therapy and I will always use that first and foremost. Even our standards of care are constantly changing based on the latest research. For others either without standard of care or who have relapsed, I try to see what biological insights we are gaining for their tumor type, and if there any open trials that seem to target the tumor best. If no trials are available, I will look to see if there are other

 drugs available either commercially or through expanded access that might help.


Q: What are your hopes for the future of pediatric brain cancer research and treatment?


Dr. Foster: My hope is that I never have to tell a family that we have no options for their tumor. I personally hope that immunotherapy becomes a mainstay of treatment and that we can improve access for all of our novel therapies across the globe.


Q: Outside of work, what are some of your interests and hobbies?


Dr. Foster: My husband, two children, and I love to go skiing in the winter and swimming in the ocean or lake in the summer. I am an avid Phillies fan, so you can find me at Citizens Bank Park quite a bit sporting a Realmuto jersey. I also enjoy traveling and running with friends.



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