Huff Project

Williamson County-based nonprofit The Huff Project recently made a $25,000 donation to Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. This donation will aid in moving forward the testing phases of a project in the detection and diagnosis of lung cancer without requiring a surgical biopsy.

The Huff Project was founded in 2018, a few months after Stephen Huff, a Williamson County native, was diagnosed at age 29 with inoperable stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer caused by a rare genetic mutation. A nonsmoker and former professional athlete, Huff founded the nonprofit with his wife to eliminate the stigma of the disease and raise money to fund research that will help others in the future.

In collaboration with Huff’s oncologist, Leora Horn, MD, MSc, The Huff Project board reviewed and selected from three research proposals presented by work groups associated with Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. They chose to fund “Cancer or Fungus? Avoiding Unnecessary Surgeries of Lung Nodules Suspicious for Cancer,” which is being investigated by Stephen Deppen, PhD, and Eric Grogan, MD, MPH. The grant provides critical bridge funding.

 “This Huff Project gift will bring us one step closer to validating exciting noninvasive blood biomarker tests to diagnose lung cancer early and minimize harm,” said Deppen, an assistant professor in the Department of Thoracic Surgery and Division of Epidemiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“I have been fortunate to have been a candidate for targeted therapy that has allowed me to enjoy life with few side effects since my diagnosis,” Huff said. “We are proud to know that our gift will help further the development of noninvasive early detection and treatment options for other lung cancer patients just like me.”

Deppen and Grogan have partnered with Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Kentucky to test patients with histoplasmosis, a common lung infection in the central U.S. that can create nodules in the lung that often mimic lung cancer and require a biopsy to determine a diagnosis. To avoid performing unnecessary lung biopsies without also missing a possible curable lung cancer, Deppen and Grogan are currently verifying their early positive results of two blood tests — one for histoplasmosis and one for lung cancer — in patients across three states.

Huff’s family members, including mother-in-law Betsy Acker and mother Sandy Shwab, joined board members Stephen Huff, Emily Huff and Matt Huff to present the check to Dr. Stephen Deppen at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center on January 24. To learn more about The Huff Project, go to

About Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is a leader in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The center’s world-renowned team of experts provides an integrated, personalized and patient-centered approach to cancer care, including treatment, research, support, education and outreach. Vanderbilt-Ingram is a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of just two centers in Tennessee and 49 in the country to earn this highest distinction. As a nonprofit organization, Vanderbilt-Ingram relies on philanthropic support to advance its mission. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, our center lies in the “buckle” of the “cancer belt” – seven contiguous states with the nation’s highest death rates from cancer. Our job is not done until those statistics are changed. For more information, visit



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