Double-strand breaks in DNA happen every time a cell divides and replicates. Depending on the type of cell, that can be pretty often. Many proteins are involved in everyday DNA repair, but if they are mutated, the repair system breaks down and cancer can occur. Cells have two complicated ways to repair these breaks, which can affect the stability of the entire genome. Roger A. Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., associate investigator, Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute and associate professor of Cancer Biology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, together with postdoctoral researcher Jiangbo Tang Ph.D. and colleagues, found a key determinant in the balance between two proteins, BRCA1 and 53BP1, in the DNA repair machinery. Breast and ovarian cancer are associated with a breakdown in the repair systems involving these proteins. Their findings appear in the latest online issue of Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.