ESOC to return with fully on-site format and diverse stroke programme

Robin Lemmens (L), Stéphanie Debette

Having taken place via a virtual format in 2021, and as a hybrid meeting last year, the 2023 European Stroke Organisation Conference (ESOC; 24–26 May, Munich, Germany) is set to return to a more traditional, fully on-site setup. Robin Lemmens (KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium) and Stéphanie Debette (University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France)—chair and co-chair of this year’s ESOC programme, respectively—recently spoke to NeuroNews to discuss this further, and highlight the wide-ranging topics set to feature at the meeting.

Lemmens begins by emphasising the importance of in-person conferences as a means for kick-starting future research collaborations between physicians working in the stroke space.

“Young researchers are able to present their work—for the first time, sometimes—and will then be asked questions by their peers, and maybe even people that they fear a little bit because they are such great experts in the field,” he says. “And now, all of a sudden, they get an audience question from that particular person. So, ESOC is very much about meeting each other again, and I think a lot of collaborations for future research can also be established when you see each other face-to-face.”

Lemmens also notes that, in spite of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic in recent times, one of the key goals of ESOC 2023 is for there to be global representation among its attendees. Debette supports this notion, stating that the main reason for ESOC’s switch back to an entirely on-site format is the value they place on in-person exchanges—which have been “lacking quite substantially” over the past few years.

“Of course, anything is feasible—we did it completely virtually when we had to—but for instance the hands-on sessions, as the name itself suggests, will benefit greatly from being done in person,” Lemmens adds, discussing the fact that the programme’s teaching courses will also become face-to-face once again in 2023.

A range of subjects

The diversity of topics on this year’s programme is another detail raised by Lemmens, with acute stroke treatments like thrombolysis, endovascular therapy and new advances in tackling ischaemia—matters that are always of particular interest to stroke physicians and neurointerventionists—set to feature.

Neuroprotection, a topic that gained much attention at the recent International Stroke Conference (ISC; 8–10 February, Dallas, USA), is also on the ESOC agenda. More specifically, the potential held by remote ischaemic conditioning (RIC) in acute ischaemic stroke patients, will be examined during a session dubbed ‘Building a Brain Armour’.

“I am really looking forward to a meeting where anyone can find something of interest during the sessions,” he adds. “We have made a lot of progress in reperfusion therapy over the years. If you open up a blood vessel and restore perfusion to the brain, it is of course going to have a huge impact on outcomes. On the other hand, it still takes time before reperfusion can be achieved, so any treatment that can serve as a neuroprotectant, and bridge that time between identifying the stroke and then opening up the blood vessel, is going to be of great importance.”

However, Lemmens is also keen to emphasise that primary and secondary prevention of stroke, neuroimaging, genetics, cognition, stroke rehabilitation and experimental work will all be addressed throughout a number of scientific sessions too.

For example, he highlights the critical importance of intracranial haemorrhage (ICH) treatments moving forward, especially given the fact that the victories seen within ischaemic stroke in recent times have not been mirrored in ICH. According to Debette, the story is similar when it comes to stroke caused by small vessel disease—another area in which more positive late-breaking data are eagerly anticipated that will be examined by a panel of worldwide experts at ESOC.

Breaking the mould

Debette goes on to note that, while ESOC remains a predominantly clinically focused conference, she and Lemmens have attempted to weave some more basic research into the programme as well, in an effort to convey a “translational, bench-to-bedside spirit” for the clinicians attending the conference.

“As Stéphanie mentioned, [some conferences] have solely basic-science sessions, where you have four or five speakers talking about experimental work,” Lemmens adds. “We decided to do it a little bit differently—to work within a particular topic, and then have one talk that is more basic science, before shifting towards epidemiology and then, for instance, interventions. We really wanted to work around the topic, and then try to integrate the specific components of that topic, instead of having separate sessions on just clinical or just experimental work.”

The ESOC 2023 programme is also set to play host to multiple joint sessions involving other stroke-related specialties, including neurologists (European Academy of Neurology [EAN]), interventionists (European Society for Minimally Invasive Neurological Therapy [ESMINT]) and cardiologists. In addition, a prominent joint session with the World Health Organization (WHO) will see experts debate ways of reducing the stroke burden in Europe.

Touching on efforts made by the ESO to improve female representation—not only at their annual conferences, but across the field of stroke care and stroke research more generally—Debette intimates that “this is of great importance to us”, and that ESOC’s goal is a 50/50 split in gender representation throughout the three-day programme.

“We have really put a major emphasis on this for many years, and it was particularly promoted by one of the past chairs of ESOC, Valeria Caso [Università degli Studi di Perugia, Perugia, Italy], who had not only done a lot of work to enhance the representation of women but also to promote research on stroke in women, which is really important,” Debette concludes. “Promoting young scientists, and prominently young female scientists, really is part of the spirit of ESOC.”


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