On 1 December 2009, the Radiation and Cancer Biology Committee of the British Institute of Radiology (BIR) held a one-day conference on the theme of radiation and the genome. Talks covered genomic instability (its importance for radiation-induced carcinogenesis and potential for exploitation in the development of novel chemoradiotherapy combinations) and the prospects of exploiting knowledge of the genome to understand how individual genetic variation can impact on a patient's likelihood of developing toxicity following radiotherapy. The meeting also provided an overview of stem cell biology and its relevance for radiotherapy in terms of both tumour (somatic) and normal tissue (germline) sensitivity to radiation. Moreover, the possibility of manipulating stem cells to reduce radiation-induced normal tissue damage was considered. © 2010 The British Institute of Radiology.