WE ARE RECRUITING! The lab is actively looking for new lab members for the positions listed on the Opportunities page. The lab is committed to diversity and inclusion and we encourage people of all backgrounds to apply.


Inna Smalley, PhD, Principal Investigator

Curriculum Vitae Download 

B.S. in Biology, University of South Florida

Ph.D. in Cancer Biology, University of South Florida

Post-doctoral Training, Moffitt Cancer Center

With a total of 12 years of experience studying melanoma biology, my research has largely focused on developing novel therapeutic rationales for treating BRAF- and NRAS-mutant melanoma, with an emphasis on the role of the tumor microenvironment in drug resistance. My most recent work was dedicated to delineate the mechanisms of drug resistance in BRAF-mutant melanoma that rely on extracellular matrix remodeling and fibroblast activation. My greatest interests for future studies are in exploring how intra-tumoral heterogeneity facilitates tumor growth, drug resistance and dissemination, with a special focus on single cell analysis and metabolism-associated signaling. I would like to elucidate what drives tumor cells to certain metastatic sites, including the brain and leptomeninges, as well as the mechanism supporting their survival in different microenvironments. I believe that the future treatment of melanoma lies in personalized, rational drug combinations that will turn a terminal disease into a manageable chronic illness. My career goal is to develop efficacious treatment strategies for patients with CNS metastasis and late-stage disease.

Personal Interests: running, outdoors, travel


Current Lab Members

Mariam Khaled, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher

Education/Academic background: B.S. in Pharmaceutical Science, Faculty of Pharmacy, Cairo University, Egypt.

Ph.D. in Cellular Biology and Anatomy, MCG, Augusta University, Georgia, USA.

Research interests: I have joined Dr. Smalley team to study the melanoma and lymphoma biology and how the intra-tumoral heterogeneity impact the tumor growth, metastasis, and drug resistant via using advanced sequencing technology such as single cell sequencing, along with other traditional techniques

Personal Interests: Walking, Cooking, Reading

Hasan Alhaddad, PhD, T32 Postdoctoral Fellow

Education background:

M. Sc. and Ph.D. of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio Master of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio
Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq

Research interests: Studying the intra-tumor heterogeneity using single-cell sequencing and special transcriptomic techniques in Melanoma

Personal interests: Watching TV, soccer, and hanging out with friends


Yuan Ren, M.D., PhD, Research Scientist I

Education/Academic background: M.D. in Medicine, Jiangxi Medical College, China.

Ph.D. in Cellular Biology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, China.

Research interests: Focused on studying leptomeningeal metastasis (LM) of breast cancer and melanoma cells, understanding microenvironmental adaptation of LM by using advanced techniques such as single cell sequencing and multiomics, and developing a new treatment strategy by targeting the microenvironment.

Personal Interests: Fishing, Reading

Mohammad Baraa Boozo, M.D., Visiting Scholar

Education/Academic background: M.D. in Medicine, Damascus University, Syria

Research interests:  My research focus lies in understanding the complexities of leptomeningeal involvement in various cancer types. Through collaborative efforts bridging clinical expertise and cutting-edge research methodologies, I aim to enhance diagnostic accuracy, therapeutic interventions, and patient outcomes in this challenging aspect of oncology.


Personal Interests:  Reading, poem writing, soccer, table tennis

Ethan Vallebuona, Graduate Student

Education/Academic background: University of Tampa, B.S. in Biochemistry

Research interests: Studying mechanisms of metastatic melanoma cell crosstalk with stromal cell types in the brain with a specific focus on the polarization of reactive astrocytes in response to melanoma-derived metabolites and other signaling molecules. I am also interested in developing new in vivo models of leptomeningeal disease from various cancer types to study cellular fitness in this unique meningeal microenvironment.

Personal Interests: Hiking, Camping, Fishing and Scuba Diving.

Lab Alumni

Ronak Kundalia, Research Assistant  (2021-2023)

Education background: 

Master of Medical Sciences (concentration in Anatomy) from University of South Florida

B.S. Biochemistry and B.A. in Cognitive Science from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. 

Research interests: Translational research



Kathy McGraw, PhD, Research Scientist II  (2020-2021)

Education/Academic background: B.S. in Microbiology and Cell Science, Minors: Chemistry and Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

Ph.D. in Cancer Biology, Cancer Biology Ph.D. Program, University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, FL.

Assistant Professor, Department of Oncologic Sciences, College of Medicine, University of South Florida

Research interests: Translational and clinical research, with 20 years of experience in molecular biology. Main area of expertise is in hematology-oncology research.

Personal Interests: Biking, cooking, and spending time with family.

Kathy has since joined the NCI as a Staff Scientist!


Clayton Wyatt, Research Assistant  (2020-2022)

Education background: Graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences, B.S. Biomedical Sciences, Biomedical-Physics (2015-2018)

Research interests: studying clonal heterogeneity and improving clinical outcomes for late-stage melanoma patients with CNS metastasis

Personal Interests: When I’m out of the lab you may find me at the beach trying to learn how to surf or SUP and I like to try new activities. I have an appetite for finding good recipes and experiencing new cultures too.

Clayton will be starting graduate school in the Cancer Biology PhD program!

Oscar Ospina, T32 Postdoctoral Fellow  (co-mentored in our lab 2021-2023)

Education background:

  • University of Puerto Rico, PR, USA. Graduation: 2018. PhD. Biological Sciences

  • Universidad del Valle, Colombia. Graduation: 2009. BSc. Biology (Genetics)

Research interests: Bioinformatician with interests in studying tumor heterogeneity and spatial tumor analyses


We celebrate Oscar being promoted to a Staff Scientist position in the group of Dr. Brooke Fridley!