What’s in store at the ARA Annual Scientific Meeting

3 minute read

Immunomodulation is the running theme in this year’s most exciting sessions, ARA ASM Convenor says.

This year’s ARA Annual Scientific Meeting will once again draw together Australian and international rheumatology experts, with what conference convenor Associate Professor Helen Keen says will be a “bit of a focus” on immunomodulation.

Like last year, the hybrid event will take place online, with the option to attend various satellite hubs in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Auckland.

Kicking off with a virtual Preceptorship Session on 19 May, the conference itself runs from 20 to 22 May.

For rheumatologists wanting some very practical takeaways on immunomodulation, it could be well worth tuning into Australia’s own Professor Ranjeny Thomas’s Sunday morning plenary session on resilience in rheumatoid arthritis.

“Professor Thomas uses highly sophisticated techniques to tweak the immune system, more and more looking at rheumatoid arthritis. So she’ll be talking about her work,” Professor Keen told Rheumatology Republic.

“She’ll also be talking along with her team about practical things they’re doing in their program to try to prevent the development of rheumatoid arthritis – so addressing obesity, smoking; [interventions] that all of us can do even if we can’t access immunomodulation yet.”

Also speaking at that plenary session will be UK rheumatologist Professor Maya Buch, from The University of Manchester.

She will be covering comorbidities and simple interventions for rheumatoid arthritis to try to improve outcomes and induce remission.

If early Sunday morning isn’t your thing, Professor Thomas and Professor Buch are also both presenting on Saturday afternoon, covering slightly different subjects in a session on inducing remission in immune-mediated inflammatory disease.

That session will be rounded off by Professor Georg Schett, who will be joining via video link from Germany and is another guest Professor Keen is excited to hear from. Professor Schett will be talking about a signature cytokine-based treatment of immune-mediated inflammatory disease.

Afterwards, at another session on Saturday afternoon, Professor Schett will be covering CAR T-cell therapy for immunity, specifically CAR T-cell therapy in a patient with lupus.

“He’ll be talking about borrowing from the cancer literature to treat autoimmunity,” Professor Keen said.

In terms of abstracts, Professor Keen said she would personally be keeping her eye out for Professor Catherine Hill’s presentation on the results of the 2021 ARA workforce survey.

“The survey looked at where the Australian rheumatology workforce is, both in terms of where they are physically located and from a philosophical perspective, in terms of what they want, how long they are going to work for and what they want to do,” Professor Keen said.

“It also looked at what the needs of the community are – so that’s really important for us as rheumatologists to address Australia’s future needs.”

With the spectre of covid ever present, another session to watch out for has former ATAGI co-chair Professor Chris Blyth talking about vaccine efficacy in immunosuppressed people, Associate Professor Philip Robinson on covid outcomes for people with rheumatic diseases and Dr Cassandra Calabrese from the US on anti-virals.

Other sessions that the Perth-based rheumatologist is looking forward to are presentations from consumers, and UK musculoskeletal researcher Professor Krysia Dziedzic’s talk on inequalities in health and how to optimise outcomes for people from that point of view.

Professor Keen will be tuning in from Perth, where there will be live speakers. There will also be live speakers in Sydney.

For more information, including the program, hub locations and registration, visit www.araconference.com.

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