Obituary - Dr Elvira Singh
The African Cancer Registry Network (AFCRN) has learnt with great sadness and profound shock about the untimely passing of our dear colleague, Dr Elvira Singh. She passed away on Saturday, 26 February 2022.
Dr Singh was a respected public health medicine specialist with extensive experience in the fields of cancer surveillance and cancer epidemiology. Her postgraduate training involved, amongst other, epidemiology, biostatistics, research methods and the South African public healthcare system.
Upon joining the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) in 2009, she worked at the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH), and thereafter the National Cancer Registry (NCR). At the time of her passing, Dr Singh was the Head of the National Cancer Registry in South Africa and a valued senior staff member at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases. At the NIOH, she gained project management experience through administering large grants allocated to the NHLS from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. These intricate projects involved the careful coordination of diverse groups of researchers and clinicians, together with the management of financial resources and delivering deadline-driven outputs.
Dr Singh was determined to enhance the pathology-based cancer surveillance system, to implement pilot population-based cancer registration and to extend this initiative to three other sentinel surveillance sites throughout the country. The pathology-based cancer registry has recently managed to accomplish a remarkable 3-year lag time in cancer reporting. The Ekurhuleni Population-Based Cancer Registry (EPBCR) is the first urban population-based cancer registry in South Africa. Dr Singh passionately led a team that produced two years’ worth of data from the EPBCR, and was in the process of establishing a second population-based cancer registry in KwaZulu-Natal, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Dr Singh concentrated on building on the foundation of excellent research initiated at the NCR through the Johannesburg Cancer Study, and by extending the collaborations of the NCR in South Africa and abroad. She was a Co-Investigator on the ERICA-SA project and the MADCaP project. Furthermore, she was the Principal Investigator on the South African HIV Cancer Match study, managed the grants received for the establishment of the population-based cancer registry, and she navigated the only nationally representative cancer surveillance system in the country to its current successes. As an NCR representative for the Ministerial Advisory Committee on the Prevention and Control of Cancer in South Africa, Dr Singh was instrumental in drafting the South African breast and cervical cancer policies. Under her exemplary leadership, the NCR was an active member of the African Cancer Registry Network and nominated as a Collaborating Centre for Sub-Saharan Africa for childhood cancers, and record linkage by the Global Initiative for Cancer Registry (GICR) Development.
It was an honour to work with her and we will miss her warmth, enthusiasm, beautiful smile and her commitment to strengthening cancer surveillance in Africa.
The AFCRN conveys its deepest and heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.
She is survived by her husband Shailen, son Mihail and mother Roshni Singh.
She will live in on our hearts forever.
Cancer in Sub Saharan Africa Vol III
Cancer in Sub Saharan Africa Vol III is testimony to the commitment of IARC and UICC to the recommendation in the WHA resolution "to collect high-quality population-based incidence and mortality data on cancer, for all age groups by cancer type, including measurements of inequalities, through population-based cancer registries, household surveys and other health information systems in order to guide policies and plans". It represents the fruits of the labours of the members of the African Cancer Registry Network over the past few years, bringing together their results in terms of the incidence of different cancers (by age group and sex) in the populations which they serve, for periods generally between 2010 and 2017. This volume includes results from 31 cancer registries in 22 countries, eight of which are new (not appearing in Volume II).
The African Cancer Registry Network (AFCRN) was formally inaugurated on 1st March, 2012, and succeeded and expanded the activities of the East African Cancer Registry Network (EARN), which had been established in January 2011, thanks to a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (USA).
AFCRN started as a project of the Cancer Registry Programme of the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR). It is supported financially through The Challenge Fund, a registered UK charity (charity number 1079181). The Challenge Fund in turn receives donations designated to support cancer registry activities in low and middle income countries.
AFCRN aims to improve the effectiveness of cancer surveillance in sub Saharan Africa by providing expert evaluation of current problems and technical support to remedy identified barriers, with long-term goals of strengthening health systems and creating research platforms for the identification of problems, priorities, and targets for intervention. Support to AFCRN is a recognition of the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases, and especially cancer, in the continent, and the need for adequate surveillance as a fundamental part of any rational programme for cancer control.
Since September 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in the framework of its Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (GICR), has partnered with AFCRN to provide a network Regional Hub for cancer registration in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The role of a regional hub is in:
- providing technical and scientific support to countries;
- delivering tailored training in population-based cancer registration and use of data;
- advocating the cause of cancer registration in the region and facilitating setting up associations and networks of cancer registries; and
- coordinating international research projects and disseminating findings
The role of INCTR is provision of a secretariat and coordinating centre for the Network, which assists in implementing the Programme of Activities.