In order to maintain genome integrity, it is essential that any DNA damage is repaired. This is achieved in diverse ways in all cells to ensure cellular survival. There is a large repertoire of proteins that remove and repair DNA damage. However, sometimes these processes do not function correctly, leading to genome instability. Studies of DNA repair and genome instability and their causes and cures were showcased in the 2008 Biochemical Society Annual Symposium. The present article provides a summary of the talks given and the subsequent papers in this issue of Biochemical Society Transactions.