WEO’s Editorial Team welcomes Professor Evelien Dekker as the new Global Chair of the Colorectal Cancer Screening Committee.

In March 2020, WEO welcomed its new WEO Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Screening Committee global chair, Professor Evelien Dekker from the Netherlands, professor of Gastrointestinal Oncology at the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Medicine who has taken over the reins from Professor Linda Rabeneck (Canada), former global chair of the WEO CRC SC 2013-2020.

Below Professor Dekker shares some of her insights and expectations for her two-year term within the organization.

What will be the priorities for Colorectal Cancer Screening Committee (CRC SC) during your term?

My priority is to keep the focus on science and practice of colorectal cancer screening aiming to facilitate sharing new knowledge and best practices in screening programs around the world. I very much support doing this in an open, personal and social atmosphere irrespective of the COVID-pandemic – which clearly is an additional challenge.

Tell us about some of the main activities that CRC SC is planning during your term.

New activities of the committee include the creation of a new platform to enable colonoscopy training for population-based screening programs worldwide and a working group focusing on COVID-related issues in CRC screening.

The new platform is to be seen as an educational resource as the committee aims to support healthcare professionals looking to set up screening pilots or programs. It is our clear mandate to support institutions, regions or entire countries in need of quality improvement.

In most recent days, COVID-19 has severely challenged screening for colorectal cancer. In response to this unexpected issue, the CRC SC has established an Expert Working Group: Screening in the COVID-19 era. The focus of the working group is to explore the impact the pandemic has had on CRC screening, to identify issues that need to be resolved for screening to resume successfully, but also how screening needs to be transformed to mitigate the adverse clinical impact of future outbreaks of COVID-19 or other infectious agents. Recently a manuscript has been submitted for publication by the Expert Working Group. 

CRC SC meetings follow a well-established format meeting regularly in the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, how do you foresee the future approach of CRC SC meetings?

I hope to be able to continue these 3 big meetings, as well as active participation in the South America meeting, as I see these as the most optimal way to exchange knowledge and ideas about colorectal cancer screening and to start and/or optimize screening programs. If these meetings cannot be held F2F, then I intend to plan those as online but hopefully highly interactive meetings.

What do you foresee as the main challenges for colorectal cancer screening and surveillance in the next years?

For early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer, it is crucial to be able to offer high-quality colonoscopy. However, especially in times of the COVID 19-pandemic, this invasive procedure should be offered to those that we think will benefit most from this procedure. Thus, predicting outcomes of colonoscopy by personal risk-based strategies (e.g. based on a non-invasive diagnostic testing and potentially other variables) will hopefully help us to prevent both overuse and underuse of colonoscopy in this setting.

Tell us some of your motivations for becoming involved with WEO.

The WEO is a worldwide organization with a large reach. Its CRC SC has been extremely successful in promoting colorectal cancer screening worldwide and supporting countries in developing their programs. Its former chairs Paul Rozen, Graeme Young and Linda Rabeneck, have done a terrific job in creating such an open, positive and interactive environment. It has also offered me and my Dutch colleagues a lot of opportunities, and I feel very honoured to try to continue its success along these lines.

One last question, are you still cycling to work?

Yes, I cycle the 12 kms to my hospital almost every day. I very much enjoy being outside in the fresh air before and after a long day of AMC. It is a nice way to combine commuting with some exercise and after a long and busy day it gives me some time to unwind. In my free time I enjoy cycling on my race-bike on the Dutch windy roads, together with my husband, friends or my father (81 years old now: it runs in the family!).

WEO is proud to have such a distinguished physician serving as global chair of the Colorectal Cancer Screening Committee and we wish Professor Evelien Dekker all the very best for her new role.

About Professor Evelien Dekker

Evelien Dekker obtained her PhD at the UvA and did her medical training to qualify as a junior doctor, internist and subsequently a gastroenterologist at the Amsterdam Medical Center (AMC) and OLVG hospital. Dekker has worked as a gastroenterologist since 2005, a position she has combined with that of primary investigator in the Gastroenterology department of the AMC since 2009. Her clinical duties primarily engage her in the field of gastroenterology-oncology and as head of the outpatient clinic for hereditary intestinal tumours. Furthermore, she is medical head of Bergman Clinics IZA, an endoscopy centre with focus on high-quality colonoscopy.

Colorectal cancer is a key focus of Dekker’s research, and her research group studies the screening methods for intestinal cancer, the quality and advanced technical developments within colonoscopy, the treatment of intestinal polyps and the early stages of intestinal cancer, and hereditary intestinal cancer and polyposis syndromes. Dekker is co-editor for the scientific journal Endoscopy, in the Advisory board of Nature Reviews of Gastroenterology & Hepatology and has co-authored over 350 manuscripts published in scientific journals.

Dekker is a member of several working groups of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), which is tasked with implementing the national population study of intestinal cancer. Dekker is chair of the Dutch Colonoscopy Surveillance Guideline and member of the Dutch Hereditary Intestinal Cancer Guideline Committee, member of the same and several other several guidelines for the European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ESGE) and chair of the curriculum “Optical diagnosis in upper and lower GI endoscopy” of the ESGE. In 2013 Dekker was awarded, together with Prof Ernst Kuipers (Erasmus MC), the ZonMw Pearl for her intensive involvement in preparing and initiating the Dutch national screening program for colorectal cancer.