ESUR16: Stimulating the discussion between researchers and clinicians

06 June 2016 By Loek Keizer

For three days in October, Parma will be the centre of research in urology as the EAU Section of Urological Research (ESUR) holds its annual meeting there. Its broad scientific programme examines the latest developments, while also taking into account clinical applicability.

Abstract submission and registration have opened for the 23rd ESUR meeting, which will take place at the Grand Hotel De La Ville in Parma on 20-22 October. Prof. Saverio Bettuzzi (Parma, IT) is the Meeting Chair.

Research is a huge driving force for innovation in urological care, making ESUR16 a not-to-be-missed meeting for urologists, who are looking to get informed on upcoming innovations in their field. We spoke to ESUR Chair Prof. Kerstin Junker (Homburg, DE) on what attendees can expect in Parma.

Designing the scientific programme

When devising the scientific programme for ESUR16, the organising committee had several considerations and aims. Prof. Junker explains:

“First, we wanted to make the programme attractive for experimental and clinical researchers working in the field of urology, but also for young urologists who are interested in research but did not start their own research. Second, we want the programme to reflect several important research fields in urology, especially within urological oncology. Here, it is important to find a balance between the different tumour entities.”

“Third, we aim to stimulate the discussion between researchers and clinicians, for example concerning tumour heterogeneity. This is important in order  to focus research on clinically important fields in urology on one hand and to get support from clinicians for research projects on the other hand.”

“And finally, we want to present ‘hot’ fields in experimental research in general, not necessarily focused on urology. We do this in order to show techniques and a general understanding in molecular and cellular biology, both of which are important for urological research. Examples are tumour metabolism, virus-based therapy and non-coding RNAs.”

Urologists who are not directly involved in research can also expect to gain a lot from attending ESUR16: “We are presenting current topics in state-of-the-art lectures, giving an overview not only for active researchers but also for urologists interested in those fields.”

Hot topics

In striking a balance between research-oriented topics and clinically-applicable developments, there are several hot topics which span both considerations. The committee included topics which will become important for practice very soon like checkpoint inhibitors, the role of HPV for penile cancer, metformin and tumour prevention, relevance of tumour heterogeneity for diagnostics and therapy decision in kidney and prostate cancer. Junker: “Tumour heterogeneity is a very important topic, because it is a really critical point in development of tissue-based biomarkers.”

Other topics include checkpoint inhibitors: “This is a clinically-relevant new field in metastatic disease, specifically the underlying mechanism, and exploring which biomarkers are best for therapy response prediction, beside checkpoints themselves.” Viruses will also be covered, including their role in tumour development and progression (e.g.  HPV in penile cancer) and as therapeutic agents (oncolytic viruses).

According to Prof. Junker, research has shown and continues to show promise in several cases: “molecular understanding of tumour biology led to a differentiation in several tumour subtypes with different prognosis and new therapeutic strategies. In muscle-invasive bladder cancer, we should consider basal and luminal subtypes similar to breast cancer. In clear cell and papillary renal cell carcinomas, we can identify aggressive subtypes based on molecular signatures in the near future and the understanding of kidney cancer as a metabolic disease can result in new really targeted therapies.

Speakers will be joining ESUR16 from across Europe, and beyond. “It is important to get the best speakers in a specific field, irrespective of where they’re based. Furthermore, the ESUR meeting should bring together researchers from Europe and from other regions.”

ESUR collaborates with SBUR, the USA-based Society for Basic Urologic Research. Joint meeting are held every other year, like in Nijmegen in 2015.

The promise of biomarkers

One of the most important conclusions to be drawn at last year’s ERUS-SBUR meeting was the so far insufficient use of biomarkers in clinical practice. This matter will also be addressed this year. Prof Junker explains:

“The problem is, that we have really promising markers. But many studies are performed only retrospectively (which is the right first step) and very often in a single centre. But it is necessary to go through standardized  further steps including validation prospectively and in independent cohorts.”

“For that we need clear standards like therapeutic clinical trials have, and we need a close collaboration between researchers from basic science and clinicians. Another prerequisite is biobanking with sufficient clinical data.”

“Because of the actual controversies concerning tumour heterogeneity, we have to discuss what it means for tissue based biomarkers. This is one focus of ESUR16.”