EAU Research Foundation explores new areas for collaboration and trials

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 • Loek Keizer

The EAU Research Foundation has had new leadership since EAU17 in London, earlier this year. The existing board members retired to advisory roles within the EAU-RF and new members came in under the leadership of Prof. Anders Bjartell, the new chairman.

As EAU18 draws near and the first board meetings took place over the past months, Prof. Bjartell (Malmö, SE) reflects on the role of the EAU-RF within the broader European Association of Urology and its priorities in the coming years.

“So far, it’s been going well,” Bjartell begins. “It’s a big challenge but we’ve already had three board meetings since London. The new board members are coming with new initiatives and plans for new registries and prospective studies, particularly in areas of bladder and prostate cancer.”

Prof. Bjartell is joined on the board by Dr. Wim Witjes (Arnhem, NL), Dr. Hashim Ahmed (London, GB), Dr. Andrea Necchi (Milan, IT), Prof. Guido Jenster (Rotterdam, NL), Dr. Shahrokh Shariat (Vienna, AT) and Prof. Bart Kiemeney (Nijmegen, NL).

Bjartell: “I’m particularly pleased with the composition of the new EAU-RF Board. Together, we cover most aspects of urological research, like epidemiology, basic science and different urological malignancies. The board members also have great experience with multi-centre studies. The previous board members now support us with their expertise when we need them.”

Identifying Knowledge Gaps

One of the primary tasks that the EAU-RF is taking on is identifying and then filling in gaps in current urological knowledge. To this end, it works closely with the Guidelines Office. Prof. Bjartell explains:

“I have already had a productive and pleasant meeting with [EAU Guidelines Chair Prof.] James N’Dow. We understand how much we need each other when it comes to improving healthcare within urology. The Guidelines Office panels have been asked to work to identify the most urgent questions and ‘gaps’ in the current knowledge, where we can benefit from new studies and registries. If these gaps can be identified by the Guidelines Office, we can have a discussion about what studies and registries we can initiate. Our new initiatives will serve the expansion of our knowledge in urology, it won’t just be research for its own sake. I feel this is one of the most important things we have to put effort into.”

Some gaps have already been identified: “Absolutely. One is alternative treatments of prostate cancer. Besides surgery and radiation therapy, we have different kinds of focal therapy. These options have not always been described in prospective, high-quality studies. There is an urgent need for more studies in focal therapies for prostate cancer, and to collect real world data. That could be in the form of registries. We also aim to compare different methods and patient-reported outcome measurements, PROMS. That’s certainly another gap in our current knowledge and indeed our guidelines for urologists.”

“With a close collaboration with the EAU Guidelines office and other sections, the Research Foundation will contribute to improve healthcare for our patients.”

Scholarship Opportunities

The EAU-RF is also exploring an increase in the research scholarships that are currently being offered through the European Urology Scholarship Programme (EUSP). Through a so-called “seeding grant”, short-term, exploratory projects can be supported. The results will determine the potential and long-term feasibility of the research.

“We’ve been working with the EUSP to create scholarships for researchers to work on projects that were initiated by the Research Foundation. We need young colleagues to work on these studies and registries, and one way we have been achieving this so far is through these traditional scholarships,” Bjartell explains.

“Another approach for us to fill research gaps is to offer what we call ‘seeding grants’ from the Research Foundation itself. We will be announcing a budget for new research initiatives. If you have a new idea, it may be a high-risk project. One way to find out if it’s something really good is to start working on it with a seeding grant. If results are promising, it can be expanded to a larger study.”

“It’s a way to get the first results in quickly and examine whether it is a feasible long-term project. Not all ideas have promise, or work out how you expect, there is no telling in advance. We think this strategy will pay off.”

There is a range of topics that have potential for new research. “We have had a lot of discussion on the surgical methods in urology, and projects related to new drugs. These are often initiated by pharmaceutical companies, because it’s really expensive to set up trials like that. There is a need for more studies on surgical methods. The use of new medical devices, matters like focal therapy. This is an area in which we should also identify new projects to be started.”

Further Collaboration

In addition to working with the Guidelines Office and Scholarship Programme, the EAU Research Foundation is looking to other natural allies within the EAU. Prof. Bjartell, himself a former chairman of the EAU Section for Urological Research (ESUR) acknowledges their common goals and potential for shared meetings.

“One of our board members, Guido Jenster was also involved with ESUR in the past. Recently we have been considering closer collaboration, starting in the coming year. We have drawn up a plan to collaborate with the Research Section when they have their annual meeting in the autumn of 2018. We can contribute to their scientific programme.”

“The same goes for the Young Academic Urologists (YAU). The Research Foundation will get a slot in their programme at the Annual EAU Congress. In general, we would like to achieve more interaction with the YAU, as we have similar target audiences and we can offer scholarships to young urologists.”

The upcoming Annual EAU Congress offers more opportunities for the EAU Research Foundation to advertise its goals and drum up interest for its projects. Bjartell: “We are looking ahead to EAU18 in Copenhagen. In addition to our participation in the YAU Session, we are contributing to different poster sessions, and also to a research news session where new initiatives in clinical trials are being presented by companies and other organisations. This session is an opportunity to highlight new research, showcase the prospective studies that we have in collaboration with industry.”