It is Hannah Lyon’s first-ever experience with public speaking, but she clears her throat, clutches her notes, and plunges in. “Hello. My name is Hannah, and while I might not look like it, I am a cancer patient.”
Lyon’s audience was gathered in front of her on a Washington, DC sidewalk to commemorate World Cancer Day. She explains to them that she was just 26 years old when she was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. Her first set of doctors saw Lyon’s best-case scenario as chemotherapy and radiation that would only extend her life for a few years. Desperate for a more promising approach, Lyon found a clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). There, she received cutting-edge immunotherapy, where her immune cells were genetically modified and reinserted into her bloodstream. Since the treatment, Lyon’s tumors have shrunk more than 80%.