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Catherine Grasso, PhD

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Hematology and Oncology, Associate Director for Bioinformatics, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy


Catherine Grasso, PhD, is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology, at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Grasso began her work in human genomics when she developed assembly algorithms used to do the first comprehensive annotation of alternative splicing in the human, mouse and rat genome.  When high throughput sequencers became available Grasso developed a precision medicine pipeline for using exome data to identify treatment opportunities in the clinic, while leading a major sequencing effort for metastatic prostate cancer.  She also developed a copy number alteration analysis technique for exome sequencing and then the targeted sequencing platform, Ampliseq, which was incorporated into routine clinical methodology.  Grasso has contributed to cancer genomics and precision medicine efforts across multiple cancer types, including leading analyses for the SU2C Breast Cancer Dream Team, the first Childrens’ Oncology Group Sequencing effort which focused on diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, resulting in the first effective treatment of this cancer, and more recently a multi-institute team to finish The Cancer Genome Atlas colorectal cohort analyses.  The colorectal cancer effort began as an effort to integrate the molecular features of this cancer type, but became through the influence of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy an effort to characterize genomic drivers of immune infiltration, revealing that immunoediting and T-cell exclusion by WNT signaling happen across all colorectal types, not just cancers with high mutation load that respond to immune blockade therapy with resistance mutation occurring in primary cancers.  In collaboration with Dr. Antoni Ribas at UCLA, Grasso is currently focusing on drivers of T-cell exclusion that impact immune checkpoint blockade response in order to increase the T-cell infiltration to expand the efficacy of this mode of therapy to cancers that are currently resistant.

Education & Training

  • 1998 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Honors Mathematics, BS
  • 2000 University of California, Los Angeles, CA, Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences
  • 2005: Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, PhD, Applied Mathematics
  • 2005: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Postdoctoral, Biological Chemistry
  • 2011: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Postdoctoral, Pathology

Awards & Honors

  • 1999: National Institute of Health Graduate Student Training Grant
  • 1999: Outstanding Graduating Senior in Mathematics, University of Michigan
  • 2000: Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship
  • 2000: National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellowship
  • 2004: International Society of Computational Biology Travel Fellowship
  • 2011: AACR Scholar-in-Training Award