Dr. Steven S. Foster


Lecturer in Cancer Genetics

Department of Genetics and Genome Biology
College of Life Sciences

Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3379
Email: ssf5@le.ac.uk


Personal details

I grew up in South Shields, a seaside town in the north east of England. I completed a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences in 2002. Following a brief spell working for a biotechnology company I undertook a PhD in Genetics in the laboratory of Professor David Lydall (Newcastle University, UK). Here I used budding yeast as a model organism to study the cellular responses to dysfunctional telomeres.

In 2007 I moved to New York for my postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr John Petrini at the world-renowned Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Expanding my use of model systems to include mammalian cell tissue culture and mouse models, I studied chromosome break metabolism and the basic mechanisms of cancer.

Returning to the UK in 2013, I established my own research laboratory at the University of Leicester to study the genetic and molecular mechanisms of disease-relevant cellular stress responses.

Areas of teaching

Genetics of human diseases such as cancer, molecular biology, genes, genome instability


The cells within our body are constantly exposed to various internal and external stress factors that promote ageing and diseases such as cancer. My laboratory works to uncover the underlying genetics and molecular mechanisms regulating cellular stress responses, and studies how these genes and pathways influence cell and organismal health. Ultimately, this identifies potential new therapeutic targets, as well as biomarkers for predicting disease predisposition and cancer treatment responses.

We develop and use state-of-the-art complex trait analysis, genetic, genomic, and molecular and cell biology approaches in various  complementary model systems (yeast, flies, human cells) to study:

The DNA damage response: Cells are constantly exposed to a wide range of DNA damaging agents, including reactive oxygen species and UV light. If not repaired correctly, DNA damage can lead to mutations that cause cancer. Studying how cells respond to and tolerate DNA damage will therefore lead to a deeper understanding of how cancers develop and evolve.

Cancer therapy resistance: We perform sophisticated complex trait analysis screens to identify the genes and genetic variation within them that influence resistance to radiotherapy and chemotherapeutic agents.

How fasting alters cancer therapy side effects: Unfortunately, most anti-cancer agents are also toxic to normal replicating cells within the body, causing various side effects that limit their effectiveness such as diarrhoea, infertility and even death. Recent research suggests that the low-level stress of fasting prior to treatment may reduce side effects by somehow selectively increasing the treatment tolerance of patients’ non-cancerous cells. We are working to uncover the genetic and molecular mechanisms responsible for the fasting-induced changes in cancer therapy tolerance. A better knowledge of these will improve treatment practices by uncovering biomarkers for predicting when individuals will benefit from fasting, and identifying new therapeutic targets for inducing beneficial fasting-associated effects. Increasing patient tolerance would also allow higher treatment doses to be administered.


To view my publications please click  HERE



  • Hope Against Cancer
  • Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund
  • Cancer Research UK



PhD opportunities

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Contact Details

Department of Genetics
University of Leicester

Adrian Building
University Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3374
E Mail: genetics@le.ac.uk

Head of Department
Professor Alison Goodall


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