Cancer is the leading cause of death in the United States for people under the age of 85. It occurs when a single cell in the body stops performing its normal function and grows out of control. The instructions for normal cellular function are encoded in the DNA of a cell. Damage to DNA can lead to permanent changes, called mutations, which are the driving force for the loss proper cell instruction and subsequent cancerous growth. To prevent mutations, all cells of the human body have a series of specialized proteins that recognize and repair chemical and physical DNA damage. In this seminar, we will discuss the ways cells repair DNA, the mutagenic consequences of unprepared DNA damage, and the fates of individuals born without DNA repair proteins.

Today you will learn

  • What is Cancer?
  • What is metastasis?
  • What is DNA and it's components?
  • What are genes? What do they make?
  • What are mutations?
  • What could cause mutations?
  • What is the relationship between tumor suppressors and onogenes?
  • How does DNA repair relate to cancer?


To understand the methods used at LLNL to assess the molecular nature of DNA and its role in Cancer.

Student Lecture Notes

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Speaker Bios

Dr.John Hinz

Lawrence Livermore national Laboratory

John received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Wabash College in 1995. He then went on to graduate school at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, and studied a cellular DNA repair mechanism called Mismatch repair, which plays a key role in the cellular avoidance of cancer-causing mutations arising during DNA replication. He received his Ph.D. from the department of Oncological Sciences in 2001. John has since been at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs researching the role of DNA repair in preventing mutations and cancer.

Salustra Urbin

Biomedical Scientist
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Salustra Urbin: In 2001, Salustra received her Bachelor of Sciences degree from the University of California, Davis, majoring in Biochemistry. She then worked as a postgraduate researcher at UCD in the department of Molecular and Cellular Biology studying meiotic chromosome pairing in yeast. In 2004, Salustra joined the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a Biomedical Scientist to study mammalian cellular responses to DNA-damaging agents such as ionizing radiation and chemotherapeutic agents.

Kirk Brown

Biology Teacher
Tracy High School

Kirk Brown teaches International Baccalaureate Biology at Tracy High School in Tracy, California. He has 15 years of experience as a teacher and has served as a Mentor Teacher for Tracy Unified School District. He founded the Agricultural/Scientific Academy at Tracy High School, and has worked on science education projects with the California Department of Education, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), San Joaquin County Office of Education, Access Excellence (Genentech), and the Exploratorium and has an on-going partnership with Biorad Laboratories. Kirk is also an adjunct faculty member of San Joaquin Delta College. He has his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biological Science with a concentration in Entomology from California State University Stanislaus and his Master of Arts Degree in Education from the University of the Pacific. While working with LLNL, Kirk worked with other teachers to co-author the Biotechnology Education Program, Laser Science & Optics for the Classroom, and Past Director of the Student Research Academy, and Teacher Research Academy. These programs focus on teacher or student development and training, with a strong focus on integrated instruction. More recently, he has been involved in the development and implementation of a summer research program for high school students at LLNL. Currently, Kirk is the Director of the Biotechnology Pillar at the Edward Teller Education Center. Kirk has worked at the District level writing new K-12 goals, desired learning_s and benchmarks that integrate the National and State standards. Kirk has been named teacher of the year and has won numerous awards including the Milken National Educator Award and most recently, California_s Outstanding Biology Teacher for 2003 by the National Association of Biology Teachers.