Women, power and cancer:

A Lancet Commission


Prof Lynette Denny


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I am a gynaecologic oncologist and have been working in the field of cervical cancer prevention in collaboration with colleagues from Columbia University, New York since 1995. We began our collaboration with the intention of evaluating alternative strategies for the prevention of cervical cancer
in low resource settings. Cervical cancer was and remains the commonest cancer diagnosed among women living in poor countries due to the failure to either initiate or sustain cytology- based screening programmes. Our group pioneered the search for alternative protocols for the prevention of cervical cancer in community-based research sites in townships just outside of Cape Town. Since that time, I have had extensive research experience in cervical cancer prevention, including three cross-sectional studies comparing different screening tests (such as HPV testing and VIA to cytology), a prophylactic

HPV vaccine trial in HIV positive women and a therapeutic vaccine trial in HPV negative women. We are currently engaged in an NCI (USA) funded trial evaluating screen and treat with the HPV Xpert Cepheid HPV test and have added evaluation of Automated Visual Evaluation of the cervix in addition to point ofcare HPV testing in a screen and treat approach. I was appointed the director of the SA Medical
 Research Council Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre, with 5 years of guaranteed funding. We are now in the next phase of the development of the Centre and have another 3 years of funding. I became head of Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology in 2013 and handed over the leadership of our Gynaecological Cancer Unit to Dr Nomonde Mbatani who was second in charge. My tenure as Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Cape Town, ended April 2022 and I am now a Professor, Special Projects, Department of O&G, Faculty of Health Sciences, UCT. In November 2021, I was awarded the Order of the Baobab by the President of SA for ‘distinguished service’ to our country. And in November 2022 was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the South African Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. I was a participant in the WHO Clinical Guidelines Group designed to produce recommendation for secondary prevention of cervical cancer and use of HPV DNA/HPVmRNA testing as a primary screening test. In addition, I was appointed as an International Expert by IAEA for the development of the National Cancer Control Programme of Botswana.