Catherine C. Coombs, MD

Catherine C. Coombs, MD, is a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center member and Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Clinical profile

Area of interest


Dr. Coombs sees patients with hematologic malignancies, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia and the closely related disease, small lymphocytic lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndromes, myeloproliferative neoplasms, MDS/MPN overlap syndromes including chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia, hairy cell leukemia, large granular lymphocyte leukemia, prolymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia. She also an interest in patients with precursor states such as clonal cytopenias of undetermined significance and clonal hematopoiesis.


Dr. Coombs’ research interests center on the application of genomic correlates to improve the clinical care of patients with leukemia. Her main area of research focus is on clonal hematopoiesis (CH), which is the idea that individuals without leukemia can carry leukemia-associated mutations in their blood cells. This can have important implications including a risk for development of a subsequent hematologic malignancy (most typically MDS or AML), and can be associated with increased risk of dying from cardiovascular causes. She has performed research examining the impact of CH on patients with solid tumors, and identified associations with prior cytotoxic therapy, and impact on long-term outcomes such as development of subsequent hematologic malignancy and overall survival. Further, Dr. Coombs has demonstrated that these blood-derived mutations can lead to confounding of interpretation of tumor-only sequencing assays, as CH-events may be misinterpreted as tumor-derived events in individuals whose tumor biopsies have a significant amount of admixed leukocytes.

Dr.  Coombs also has performed research to better understand the genetic risk factors leading to the development of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Lastly, she has an interest in the application of molecularly-targeted agents to the treatment of patients with hematologic malignancies, through use of these agents in various stages of clinical trial development.

Notable Honors and Awards

American Society of Clinical Oncology Young Investigator Award Recipient, 2016

Participant, AACR/ASCO Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop, Vail, CO, 2015

Best poster award at Duke Resident Research night, Duke University, 2013

Recipient of American Society of Hematology Trainee Research Award, 2012

Recipient of Faculty Resident Research Grant, Duke University, 2012

Second place in Poster Competition for Duke Clinical Science Day, 2012

International workshop on CLL, Young investigators meeting abstract winner, 2011

First Place for Califf Resident Research Award, Duke University, 2011

Recipient of Faculty Resident Research Grant, Duke University, 2011

Elected into Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society, University of Cincinnati, 2009

First Place in Poster Competition for poster entitled “A Painful Perianal Plaque: The Great Imposter”- Ohio American College of Physicians meeting, Columbus, OH, 2009

Adriano Essay contest winner in Pathology for paper titled “Hypercalcemia of Malignancy” Univ. of Cincinnati, 2008

Guy Pennington Scholarship, awarded by Hamilton Community Foundation, 2008

Golden Scalpel Award in Gross Anatomy- University of Cincinnati, 2007

Thomas B. Cameron Award, For “highest ideals and achievements in the teaching of chemistry,” Univ. of Cincinnati, 2006

William V. and Mary L. Caruso Award, For “an outstanding second-year graduate student in analytical chemistry,” Univ. of Cincinnati, 2006

Darwin T. Turner Scholars Teaching Award, Univ. of Cincinnati, 2006

Montreux LC/MS Symposium Graduate Student Travel Award, 2005

Procter & Gamble Fellowship and Research Assistant Fellowship, Univ. of Cincinnati, 2004

Gina Rosko Memorial Scholarship, Macquarie University, 2003

Hugh B. Donahoe Award in Organic Chemistry, St. Louis University, 2003

Dean’s Scholarship, St. Louis University, 2001

National Merit Scholarship, St. Louis University, 2001

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