Our laboratory accelerates translational brain tumor research, combining innovative techniques in genetics and cancer biology with a unique insight into the pressing clinical questions facing patients. We use novel genetic sequencing methods and modeling to understand how cancer grows in the brain, inadvertently supported by native brain cells. We focus on translational therapeutic targets identified from and validated with primary human tissue and cerebrospinal fluid whenever possible, as this most reliably reflects the human disease. These findings have led to novel diagnostic tools and clinical trials for patients with malignant brain tumors. Our laboratory is a dynamic and collaborative working environment, benefitting from the supportive research environment at Stanford. Our laboratory space bridges the Stanford core campus and the medical facilities, emblematic of the translational aspects of our work.


    broken image

    A Novel Brain-Permeant Chemotherapeutic Agent for the Treatment

    of Brain Metastasis

    in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

    Mol Cancer Ther. 2021 Nov;20(11):2110-2116

    Development of metastases to central nervous system (CNS) is an increasing clinical issue following the diagnosis of advanced breast cancer. The propensity to metastasize to CNS varies by breast cancer subtype. Of the four breast cancer subtypes, triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) have the highest rates of both parenchymal brain metastasis and leptomeningeal metastasis (LM). LM is rapidly fatal due to poor detection and limited therapeutic options. Therapy of TNBC brain metastasis and LM is challenged by multifocal brain metastasis and diffuse spread of LM, and must balance brain penetration, tumor cytotoxicity, and the avoidance of neurotoxicity. Thus, there is an urgent need for novel therapeutic options in TNBCs CNS metastasis. QBS10072S is a novel chemotherapeutic that leverages TNBC-specific defects in DNA repair and LAT1 (L-amino acid transporter type 1)-dependent transport into the brain.


    Read more at:


    broken image

    Comprehensive RNA analysis of CSF reveals a role for CEACAM6 in lung cancer leptomeningeal metastases


    NPJ Precis Oncol. 2021 Oct 8;5(1):90

    Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) metastatic to the brain leptomeninges is rapidly fatal, cannot be biopsied, and cancer cells in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) are few; therefore, available tissue samples to develop effective treatments are severely limited. This study aimed to converge single-cell RNA-seq and cell-free RNA (cfRNA) analyses to both diagnose NSCLC leptomeningeal metastases (LM), and to use gene expression profiles to understand progression mechanisms of NSCLC in the brain leptomeninges.








    Read more at:


    broken image

    Antitumor activity of an engineered decoy receptor targeting CLCF1-CNTFR signaling in lung adenocarcinoma

    Nature Medicine. 2019 Nov;25(11):1783-1795.

    Proinflammatory cytokines in the tumor microenvironment can promote tumor growth, yet their value as therapeutic targets remains underexploited. We validated the functional significance of the cardiotrophin-like cytokine factor 1 (CLCF1)-ciliary neurotrophic factor receptor (CNTFR) signaling axis in lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) and generated a high-affinity soluble receptor (eCNTFR-Fc) that sequesters CLCF1, thereby inhibiting its oncogenic effects. eCNTFR-Fc inhibits tumor growth in multiple xenograft models and in an autochthonous, highly aggressive genetically engineered mouse model of LUAD, driven by activation of oncogenic Kras and loss of Trp53.


    Read more at:


    broken image

    Recurrently Mutated Genes Differ between Leptomeningeal and Solid Lung Cancer Brain Metastases.

    J Thorac Oncology 2018 Jul;13(7):1022-1027.

    When compared with solid brain metastases from NSCLC, leptomeningeal disease (LMD) has unique growth patterns and is rapidly fatal. Patients with LMD do not undergo surgical resection, limiting the tissue available for scientific research. In this study we performed whole exome sequencing on eight samples of LMD to identify somatic mutations and compared the results with those for 26 solid brain metastases.






    Read more at:


    broken image

    Single-Cell RNA-Seq Analysis of Infiltrating Neoplastic Cells at the Migrating Front of Human Glioblastoma

    Cell Reports. 2017 Oct 31; 21(5):1399-410.

    Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common primary brain cancer in adults and is notoriously difficult to treat because of its diffuse nature. We performed single-cell RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) on 3,589 cells in a cohort of four patients. We obtained cells from the tumor core as well as surrounding peripheral tissue. Our analysis revealed cellular variation in the tumor's genome and transcriptome. We were also able to identify infiltrating neoplastic cells in regions peripheral to the core lesions. Despite the existence of significant heterogeneity among neoplastic cells, we found that infiltrating GBM cells share a consistent gene signature between patients, suggesting a common mechanism of infiltration. Additionally, in investigating the immunological response to the tumors, we found transcriptionally distinct myeloid cell populations residing in the tumor core and the surrounding peritumoral space. Our data provide a detailed dissection of GBM cell types, revealing an abundance of information about tumor formation and migration.





    Explore data at:



    Read more at:


    broken image

    Chromosome-scale mega-haplotypes enable digital karyotyping of cancer aneuploidy.

    Nucleic Acids Research. 2017 Aug 16.

    Genomic instability is a frequently occurring feature of cancer that involves large-scale structural alterations. These somatic changes in chromosome structure include duplication of entire chromosome arms and aneuploidy where chromosomes are duplicated beyond normal diploid content. However, the accurate determination of aneuploidy events in cancer genomes is a challenge. Recent advances in sequencing technology allow the characterization of haplotypes that extend megabases along the human genome using high molecular weight (HMW) DNA. For this study, we employed a library preparation method in which sequence reads have barcodes linked to single HMW DNA molecules. Barcode-linked reads are used to generate extended haplotypes on the order of megabases. We developed a method that leverages haplotypes to identify chromosomal segmental alterations in cancer and uses this information to join haplotypes together, thus extending the range of phased variants. With this approach, we identified mega-haplotypes that encompass entire chromosome arms. We characterized the chromosomal arm changes and aneuploidy events in a manner that offers similar information as a traditional karyotype but with the benefit of DNA sequence resolution. We applied this approach to characterize aneuploidy and chromosomal alterations from a series of primary colorectal cancers.


    Read more at:


    broken image


    New tools for studying microglia in the mouse and human CNS.


    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Mar 22;113(12)

    Here, we identify transmembrane protein 119 (Tmem119), a cell-surface protein of unknown function, as a highly expressed microglia-specific marker in both mouse and human. We developed monoclonal antibodies to its intracellular and extracellular domains that enable the immunostaining and isolation of microglia. Using our antibodies, we provide, to our knowledge, the first RNAseq profiles of highly pure mouse microglia during development and after an immune challenge.


    Read more at:


    broken image

    Purification and Characterization of Progenitor and Mature Human Astrocytes Reveals Transcriptional and Functional Differences with Mouse.

    Neuron | January 2016 | Volume 89, Issue 1, 6 | Pages 37–53

    The functional and molecular similarities and distinctions between human and murine astrocytes are poorly understood. Here, we report the development of an immunopanning method to acutely purify astrocytes from fetal, juvenile, and adult human brains and to maintain these cells in serum-free cultures.





    Read more at:


    broken image

    A survey of human brain transcriptome diversity at the single cell level.


    PNAS | June 9, 2015 | vol. 112 | no. 23 | 7285–7290

    The human brain is a tissue of vast complexity in terms of the cell types it comprises. Conventional approaches to classifying cell types in the human brain at single cell resolution have been limited to exploring relatively few markers and therefore have provided a limited molecular characterization of any given cell type. We used single cell RNA sequencing on 466 cells to capture the cellular complexity of the adult and fetal human brain at a whole transcriptome level.













    Read more at:


    broken image

    Brain tumor mutations detected in cerebral spinal fluid.


    Clin Chem. 2015 Mar;61(3):514-22.

    Detecting tumor-derived cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in the blood of brain tumor patients is challenging, presumably owing to the blood-brain barrier. Cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) may serve as an alternative "liquid biopsy" of brain tumors by enabling measurement of circulating DNA within CSF to characterize tumor-specific mutations. Many aspects about the characteristics and detectability of tumor mutations in CSF remain undetermined. We detected tumor mutations in CSF samples from 6 of 7 patients with solid brain tumors. The concentration of the tumor mutant alleles varied widely between patients, from <5 to nearly 3000 copies/mL CSF. We identified 7 somatic mutations from the CSF of a patient with leptomeningeal disease by use of cancer panel sequencing, and the result was concordant with genetic testing on the primary tumor biopsy. Tumor mutations were detectable in cfDNA from the CSF of patients with different primary and metastatic brain tumors. We designed 2 strategies to characterize tumor mutations in CSF for potential clinical diagnosis: the targeted detection of known driver mutations to monitor brain metastasis and the global characterization of genomic aberrations to direct personalized cancer care.


    Read more at:



    Our team combines experience with passion, creativity, and dedication.

    broken image

    Melanie Hayden Gephart

    Principal Investigator

    Dr. Hayden Gephart did her residency and post doctoral training at Stanford University in neurosurgery and cancer biology. She joined as faculty in 2014 and is a brain tumor neurosurgeon.





    broken image

    Sophia Chernikova

    Senior Researcher

    Sophia is a cancer biologist with an expertise in DNA repair, epigenetics, genomic instability and radiation oncology. Her present interests are in brain tumors with a specific focus on brain metastases from triple negative breast cancer. She enjoys data mining, hiking and biking. 


    broken image

    Shruti Jain

    Post-doctoral Researcher

    Shruti has obtained her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Kent State University, Ohio in 2017. She has extensive experience in developmental neurobiology and her Ph.D. work focused on local translation of mRNAs during brain development in Down syndrome. She enjoys traveling, painting, and Zumba.

    broken image

    Maxine Umeh - Garcia

    Post-doctoral Researcher

    Maxine obtained her PhD in Biochemistry, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology with an emphasis in Translational Research from UC Davis. She has an extensive background in cancer biology and an interest in triple negative breast cancer, which has a higher incidence and death rate in African-American women. She enjoys volleyball, piano playing, analyzing data, and making pretty graphs.


    broken image

    Samuel Wong

    Post-doctoral Researcher

    Sam obtained his PhD in Cellular and Molecular Medicine from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore in 2020. He has experience in developmental neurobiology and enjoys reading and hiking in his free time.






    broken image

    Giuseppe Barisano

    Post-doctoral Researcher

    Giuseppe earned his M.D. at San Raffaele University and his Ph.D in Neuroscience at University and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience at University of Southern California. He has an extensive backgfound in neuroimaging research and single-cell omics approaches. He is interested in identifying novel neuroimaging and molecular biomarkers of brain tumors. He enjoys cycling, running, hiking and being in nature.  

    broken image

    Crystal Wang

    Clinical Fellow

    Crystal is a Stanford pediatric hematology/oncology fellow interested in translational oncology research. She went to medical school at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed her pediatrics residency training at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. She enjoys cooking and going to the beach.

    broken image

    Georgiana Burnside

    Medical Student

    Georgiana is a recent graduate of Stanford University where she studied neurobiology. She is interested in clinical and translational research approaches to spinal cord and brain injury medicine and plans to pursue medical school in the next few years. In her free time, she enjoys watching docuseries, camping, and spending time with family.

    broken image

    Vaibhavi Bhaviesh Shah

    Medical Student

    Vaibhavi is a medical student at Stanford interested in neurosurgery. She completed her undergraduate in Biological Engineering and in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2021. She enjoys playing tennis, running, and listening to music in her free time. 

    broken image

    Charlotte Weixel

    Medical Student

    Charlotte is a medical studentat Stanford interested in neurosurgery. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2023 where she studied Biomedical Engineering and researched applications of focused ultrasound in the brain. In her free time, she enjoys running, ceramics, and trying new coffee shops.









    broken image

    Claudia Leonard

    Ph.D Student

    Claudia is a Ph.D Student in the Cancer Biology program at the Stanford School of Medicine. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a specialization in Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, and Genetics from Boston University. She also earned her Master’s degree in Biology from Harvard University. She is
    interested in identifying biomarkers of brain metastasis at the proteomic level
    in different subsets of patient populations and studying health disparities within clinical trials. Outside of lab, she enjoys dancing, reading, listening
    to music, and spending time with friends and family.

    broken image

    Monica Granucci

    Project Management Specialist

    Monica Granucci is a Project Management Specialist with the Cancer Clinical Trials Office and the Brain Tumor Center. She works to facilitate research tissue acquisition at Stanford, as well as assisting with the design, conduct, and management of some of Stanford’s Neurosurgery Department’s clinical trials.









    broken image

    Brandon Carlson-Clarke

    Clinical Research

    Coordinator Associate

    Brandon is working as a Clinical Research Coordinator with the Cancer Clinical Trials Office and the Brain Tumor Center and will start medical school in the Fall, 2023 with intentions to pursue neurosurgery. He completed his undergraduate degree in neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University. He enjoys skiing, camping, and cooking.


    broken image

    Adriana Noelle Carter

    Undergraduate Researcher

    Adriana is an unergraduate at Stanford studying human biology and creative writing. She plans on attending medical school and is interested in neuroscience and oncology. She is invloved with camp kesem at Stanford, an organization that supports kids whose parent's have cancer, and she is currently training to become an EMT. In her free time, she loves to read and write poetry and fictional stories.

    broken image

    Zachary Jun Xiang Yu

    Undergraduate Researcher

    Zachary is an undergraduate at Stanford. He intends to study both Psychology and Biology, with a focus in cognitive neuroscience and medicine. In his free time, Zach enjoys cooking, playing ultimate frisbee and volleyball.






    broken image

    Pablo Nunez

    Undergraduate Researcher

    Pablo is an undergraduate at Stanford studying bioengineering. He hopes to attend medical school and is interested in clinical and translational research pertaining to neurological diseases. Outside of the lab, he plays on the Stanford Club Soccer team and volunteers as a Spanish interpreter for the Cardinal Free Clinics. He enjoys skiing, painting, and playig soccer in his free time.

    broken image

    Debbie Bong 

    Undergraduate Researcher

    Debbie is an undergraduate at Stanford planning to study Symbolic Systems with a concentration in neuroscience. She is interested in disparities of medicine. In her free time, she enjoys baking, working out, and trying new restaurants.






    broken image

    Sofia Marie Tosoni

    Undergraduate Researcher

    Sofia is an undergraduate at Stanford majoring in Bioengineering with a Notation in Science Communication. She's passionate about oncology and targeted cancer therapies and plan to attend medical school in the future. In her free time, Sofia loves to run and mentor young girls in STEM. Sofia is also currently training to become a student guide at the Cantor Arts Center.


    broken image

    Ayushi Mohanty

    Undergraduate Researcher

    Ayushi is an undergraduate at Stanford planning to major in Bioengineering. She is interested in learning more about the intersection of neuroscience and technology. Outside of the lab, Ayushi is an executive member of the Stanford Undergraduate Research Association and Stanford Undergraduate Neuroscience Society. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, solving puzzles, and spending time with family.






    broken image

    Umme Zainab Ahmad

    Undergraduate Researcher

    Umme is currently pursuing her Associate's for Transfer in mathematics/science. She hopes to transfer to a 4-year institution in
    Fall 2025 to study chemical engineering with an emphasis on biotechnology.
    Umme is very fascinated by science and that is why she is exploring the realm of
    academic research this summer. Umme is also very excited about making a large-scale impact in healthcare by creating medical devices and medications that help to cure, or, better yet, prevent disease. In her free time, Umme enjoys painting, travelling, working out and watching movies.

    broken image

    Thy Trinh

    Life Science Research Professional 1

    Thy obtained Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry at Denison University before joining the lab. She is interested in healthcare and biomedical research, particularly in topics about human physiology and diseases. Thy enjoys cooking, biking, and singing in her free time.









    broken image

    Seunghyun Lee

    Life Science Research Professional 1

    Seunghyun is a recent graduate of University ofCalifornia San Diego with a Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering:
    Biotechnology. She is interested in biomedical research, especially in cancer
    development and adapting sequencing data analytic skills to find potential
    treatments or diagnostic approaches. In her free time, she enjoys cooking,
    watching Netflix, and going to the beach.



    broken image

    Rukayat Taiwo

    Neurosurgery Resident

    Rukayat is a Stanford Neurosurgery Resident. She completed an MD/MA at Washington University in Saint Louis where she studied epigenetic factors important in the tumorigenicity of glioblastoma stem cells. She is currently interested in studying the brain tumor microenvironment to improve our understanding and treatment of brain cancers. In her free time, Rukayat enjoys eating her way around the world and exploring new cultures.

    broken image

    Daniel Herrick 

    Neurosurgery Resident

    Dan Herrick is a Stanford Neurosurgery resident and recently completed the Stanford Biodesign Innovation Fellowship. He earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Tufts University School of Medicine where his Ph.D. research identified novel molecular mechanisms governing adult neurogenesis after injury. He is interested in translational research focused on identifying biomarkers of neurotrauma.


    broken image

    Meaghan Roy-O'Reilly

    Neurology Resident

    Meaghan is a current adult Neurology resident andfuture Stanford Neuro-oncology fellow. She obtained her MD/PhD at UT Houston in
    Neuroscience and Immunology. She enjoys playing the drums, swimming and her dog Guinness.






  • Neuro-oncology research, it's personal

    Neurosurgery isn't just my career and practice, it is a personal struggle to help improve the treatment for patients with brain tumors. These diseases have taken the lives of many of my friends and family, and affects the lives of my patients every day. Just a handful of their photos are listed here. We are committed to improving the care of patients with brain tumors and understanding the underlying mechanisms of disease progression, motivated by a personal understanding of the disease. I work in the operating room employing the maximal treatment for patients in my clinic today. The lab looks to develop new treatments and diagnostic techniques for the future patients who will be in the clinic tomorrow.

    broken image

    Robert Bean (1966 - 2000)


    Robert Bean, Dr. Hayden's uncle, passed away at the age of 37 from Glioblastoma.


    broken image

    Paul Kalanithi (1977 - 2015)

    Paul, Dr. Hayden's co-resident, was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer during his neurosurgery residency. He passed away at the age of 37.


    Wenying Pan

    Position in the Lab (2013 - 2016): Graduate Student

    Subsequent position Scientist, Grail Inc.

    Linya You

    Position in the Lab (2015 - 2016): Post doctorate

    Subsequent position: Medical student, Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University

    Yingmei Li

    Position in the Lab (2014 - 2018): Post doctorate

    Subsequent position: Scientist, BindeBio and Chinese Academy of Science.

    Ian Connolly

    Position in the Lab (2014 - 2019) : Medical Student

    Subsequent position: Neurosurgery Resident Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital

    Jiaojiao Deng

    Position in the Lab (2018 - 2019): Medical Student

    Subsequent position: Neurosurgery student, Huashan Hospital, Fudan University.

    Eli Johnson

    Position in the Lab (2015 - 2020): Medical Student

    Subsequent position: Neurosurgery Resident, Duke University.

    Dina Polyak

    Position in the Lab (2017 - 2020): Post doctorate

    Subsequent position: Scientist, Arsenal Bio.

    Lina Khav Khoeur

    Position in the Lab (2015 - 2018): Undergraduate

    Subsequent position: Medical Student, UCSF

    Yuelong Wang

    Position in the Lab (2019 - 2020): Visiting Post doctorate

    Subsequent position: Assistant Researcher, and Postdoctoral fellow Sichuan University, Chengdu, China

    Bina Kakusa

    Position in the Lab (2019 - 2021): Medical Student

    Subsequent position: Neurosurgery Resident, Stanford

    Anna Diaz

    Position in the Lab (2021): Summer Intern

    Subsequent position: Student, UC Berkeley

    Amanda Luu

    Position in the Lab (2021): Summer Intern

    Subsequent position: Student at UCSD, Majoring in Neuroscience

    Hriday P. Bhambhvani

    Position in the Lab (2017-2022): Medical Student

    Subsequent position: Urology Resident Physician, Cornell University

    Steffi Jean Andersen

    Position in the Lab (2018-2022): Undergraduate

    Subsequent position: MD/PhD Student, Columbia University

    Bryanna Godfrey

    Position in the Lab (2019-2022): Undergraduate

    Subsequent position: MD/PhD student, Columbia University

    Saif Ali

    Position in the Lab (2022): Summer Research Student

    Subsequent position: Student at Stanford University

    Juliana Nava

    Position in the Lab (2022): Summer Intern

    Subsequent position: Student at Cañada College

    Adrian Rodriguez

    Position in the Lab (2019-2023): Medical Student

    Subsequent position: Neurosurgery Resident Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital

    Leeza Kopaeva

    Position in the Lab (2022-2023): Clinical Research Coordinator

    Subsequent position: Clinical Research Coordinator, Stanford Otolaryngology

    Kriti Lalwani

    Position in the Lab (2023-2024): Clinical Research Coordinator

    Subsequent position: MD student, Arizona State University

    Megan Lee

    Position in the Lab (2023-2024): Visiting medical student researcher

    Subsequent position: MD student, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


    A gift to the Gephart Lab will support our research on brain tumors.
    If you would like to make a donation for this purpose, please click below or contact:

    Toba Rainess
    Medical Center Development
    Phone: (202) 527 3176
    Email: Toba.Rainess@stanford.edu

  • Interested in joining our team?

    Please submit a CV with a brief description of your research interests and career goals to Melanie Hayden Gephart (mghayden@gmail.com) 


    Melanie Hayden Gephart, MD, MAS

    Department of Neurosurgery
    213 Quarry Rd
    4th Fl MC 5958

    Office (650) 723-8591


    Department of Neurosurgery
    875 Blake Wilbur Drive, Clinic D
    Palo Alto, California 94304
    Clinic (650) 497-7777
    Stanford Main Hospital (650) 723 4000


    1201 Welch Rd., MSLS P307
    Stanford, CA 94305-5487
    Office (650) 723-8591

    Brain Tumor Center

    Clinic Referral/Questions