Conference Coverage

Hot Topics at ATS 2022

​​​​​In this podcast, Andrew Halayko, PhD, ATSF, summarizes hot topics to be discussed at the American Thoracic Society (ATS) 2022 International Conference, including how COVID-19 has influenced the program agenda and highly anticipated keynote, clinical, and research sessions.

ATS 2022 will be held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Ca., from May 13 to 18; selected sessions will be available on-demand from May 25 to June 24, 2022.

Additional Resource:

Andrew Halayko, PhD, ATSF, is the chair of the International Conference Committee for the American Thoracic Society and a professor of physiology and internal medicine at the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg, Manitoba).



Jessica Bard:

Hello everyone, and welcome to another installment of Podcast 360. Your go-to resource for medical news and clinical updates. I'm your moderator, Jessica Bard with Consultant360 specialty network. ATS 2022 is offering the latest information on clinical, basic, and translational science in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. The annual conference is taking place in person this year in San Francisco, California from May 13th to the 18th. The sessions will be on-demand from May 25th to June 24th. Dr Andrew Halayko is here to speak with us today about the hot topics at the annual conference. Dr Halayko is the Chair of the International Society for the American Thoracic Society and a professor of physiology and internal medicine at the University of Manitoba in Manitoba, Canada. Thank you for joining us today, Dr Halayko. Let's start with the elephant in the room. How do you anticipate COVID-19 will influence the program this year?

Dr Andrew Halayko:

Well COVID-19 is something and we've lived with now for well over two years, it's influenced the way we provide care, it has influenced the care we need to provide, and it has influenced the research world, and the direction of the research that has taken place, and really brought to the doorstep of the public and healthcare providers Messenger RNA vaccine technology and its merits, and some of the strengths of new approaches in vaccine biology. With respect to the conference then COVID-19 has had a huge effect. And as a committee, we've really tried hard to make sure that we highlight what's truly important without letting COVID-19 overtake all of the great work that American Thoracic Society members do. As far as what's happening in San Francisco, we start off with a bang. We have the keynote lecture series at 08:15 Sunday morning. We get started with a talk called the Restoration in the Aftermath.

This features Dr. Rana Awdish and Megan Hosey. And this is a topic that will be of interest to healthcare workers, patients, and their families, and anyone involved with healthcare research. And what's really exciting about this is the style in which they'll present, so it's going to be a very innovative storytelling framework that they'll use. It'll illustrate how patient and provider narratives provide a critical foundation for healing and how we can move forward collectively to uphold and respect the things we've will lost and the things that have changed during this pandemic, so it'll be a very exciting way to start. And it's complimented by multiple sessions throughout the conference. At the other end of the program on Wednesday, we have a chair symposium, which looks at COVID and healthcare worker burnout and stress, and features a number of speakers that have looked at this in a very objective and systematic way at some of the threats and what we need to do to keep people in the system, who are losing and how to bring them back, or how to ensure we don't lose people in the future.

There's also a number of sessions somewhere in the neighborhood of about eight or nine, that look at the ICU, ICU medicine decision making and stress as co as the COVID era has brought it to the forefront. And we also have about five or six symposia throughout the conference on the broad scope of COVID effects in care, and training, and health systems. And our trainees clinical and research really have been affected greatly by the pandemic and their inability to interact, and network, and such at conferences like our international conference.

Jessica Bard:

Yeah. It's certainly something that has impacted everyone. Now you mentioned a keynote speaker in there. What are other keynote topics that you'd like to talk about today?

Dr Andrew Halayko:

Yeah, well, we have 3 keynote speakers at our conference. The, as I said, we've start with a COVID and stress related one on Sunday, and a couple of the others include Michael Fiore from the University of Wisconsin, and he is going to speak on something very provocative title, "Unfinished Business: The Achievable Goal Of Eliminating All Tobacco Product Use In The United States by 2030," so he's been a leader in and tobacco cessation and tobacco use policy making for a number of years. His talk will focus on the epidemiology of tobacco use that goes back I think, 50 to 60 years. He'll talk about the existing regulatory authority and how the move is to reduce nicotine content of tobacco products to non-addictive levels, so that includes e-cigarettes and vaping devices. And he'll also highlight the role of tobacco cessation in eliminating tobacco use and in particular, some of the effective interventions for chest physicians.

And I think that'll be really important in his thesis that we can eliminate tobacco product use by 2030 in the United States, complimenting his work, or his keynote, are a couple of symposia, actually four symposia on smoking and vaping and their effects on the lung, the psychological effects that lead to addictive behaviors like smoking and vaping. And so those are really important session in our conference. The third keynote that we've got focuses on air quality and government policy, it's going to be a very interesting session led by Dr Mary Rice from Harvard University. And she has done a lot of work with Secretary John Kerry, who has been recently appointed to the Air Quality Environmental post with the US government. And so she has a very exciting session plan wherein she will pose questions to Secretary Kerry, almost like a fireside chat scenario, she'll present scientific evidence and weigh that against his answers, so he will not be there in person.

In fact, because of the footprint, the carbon footprint that would be involved with him to fly to San Francisco and return for what would be a 45 minute presentation. He will be there virtually with Dr Rice who will be on stage giving her presentation, so it'll be a very exciting mix of the technologies, but it overlaps with a number of themes in our conference. One of which really comes from the International Health Committee where they really have a strong focus on looking at indoor and outdoor air quality internationally, and how that affects the risk for the disease, the trajectory of lung disease in international locations, remote locations. Also we'll have some sessions that feature the best practices in terms of measuring air quality in remote areas there, and the effects of poor air quality, indoor and outdoor through the life course of lung health, so we have about 4, 5, 6 sessions on environmental exposures and lung health through peppering the conference, and all that is linked that initial keynote from Dr Rice and Secretary Kerry.

Jessica Bard:

Moving from keynote topics to more hot topics, please provide a list of hot clinical topics that will be discussed at this year's event.

Dr Andrew Halayko:

Sure. Well, we have a lot of them and we're very excited by them. One that I'd like to feature up front. We do have 3 symposia that are directly addressing this and that's the area of health, equity, and disparity, so this is something that ATS and the conference committee is very committed to ensuring is front and center. And so these sessions will look at equity and health research, healthcare delivery, and access, but also in career development, so how do equity issues and disparities affect and impact our own members? And I think they're very timely and important topics, that I want to bring to your attention first. But if we go to the strictly clinical topics, we as always feature the newest advances in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. There are a number of symposia that are really focusing on those topics.

I'm counting 10 on the list I have in front of me right now that cover all of those topics. But over and above those symposia, which are those grassroot sessions developed by our members, we have some keynote or rather some flagship sessions that are there at virtually every one of our conferences, so one of the most popular are the Clinical Year In Review sessions, so these happen every day, they cover pulmonary, critical care, nursing, and pediatric topics. And those are amongst the most highly attended sessions that we have throughout our conference. We also have the very popular Journal of the American Medical Association, New England Journal of Medicine, so JAMA and NEJM sessions where we have a morning and an afternoon symposium on Sunday. And one of these focuses on pulmonary medicine, the other focuses of critical care medicine. And they always feature either being simultaneously published papers or papers that are just about to be, or have recently been published by those journals.

And what's really fun about those is the authors are there to present, but the editors are also there to comment on why did these pieces of work make it in those really important journals, so a very popular session. We have a number of sessions on new guidelines that come through and there are too many for me to really specify, but one that I'm really excited about and we're recording this in early April and literally in the last 2 or 3 days this one came to light and we're really excited we found a place for it at the last minute in the conference, and it's a joint guideline sponsored by ATS, but in conjunction or in partnership with the European Respiratory Society, the Japanese Respiratory Society, and the Latin American Thoracic Association also known as ALAT. And it's a guideline, a clinical practice guideline on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and progressive pulmonary fibrosis.

And so we worked very hard to find a place for this, and we were happy that within the Clinician Center we found a place for that presentation, so do look for that on the program, because that is literally late-breaking news, that 6 weeks before the conference we were able to add. One that the International Conference Committee organizes and has now, I think, in its third year with the conference is the Clinical Trials Symposium. That is a really exciting session where we ask large phase 2 and phase 3 trials to submit proposals for talks.

And then we select from a fairly large list, the ones that are most intriguing that we think will have the greatest impact on practice going forward, so I'm pleased to say we've got 4 this year, that will be featuring one of those on pediatric and adult asthma, another on treatment of COVID, so the prevention of severe disease, another one on updates or new advances in bronchiectasis treatment, and the fourth trial that'll be featured in that session relates to new therapy, a novel small molecule for treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, so that'll be a great addition to the repertoire of treatment for that disorder. We've got some other clinical events that are... Or clinical sessions that are really highlights. We have 3 sessions, including one that is strictly focused on pediatrics, that would fall under the fellow's case report category, so these are fellows presenting cases with expert feedback, very important for these members in training to get that feedback and exposure. And it's usually a great audience participation thing where you can get inside the minds of some of the leaders in pulmonary medicine.

And how do they look at the diagnosing and moving forward with a management scheme for patients of fairly diverse conditions. Speaking of clinical topics, I mentioned pediatrics already, but there's a huge footprint for pediatric lung medicine. These are really across cutting, and they overlap with most of the hot topics that exist within the conference. We've got at least 8 or 9 symposia sessions, and one postgraduate course, there's a pediatric core curriculum as well. And there's one session in particular is particularly unique looking at pulmonary complications related to pediatric stem cell transplant, so that's really on the cutting edge of where we're going with respiratory care. And that'll be a very exciting session. We also feature clinical sessions in symposia that bring us up to date with advances in the nursing field, so annual nursing update, as well as the symposium on important research champion by that assembly. And the pulmonary rehab world is also well represented with a couple of symposia that feature the latest advances in pulmonary rehab medicine.

And then I guess to close, we've got some focus in symposium on advances in lung cancer treatment, its diagnosis and biology. We've got a really exciting session which is actually a chair's sponsored session on advances in treatment of cystic fibrosis. And in that one equity and disparities in healthcare are featured and quite important from an international perspective as well. And one that's very cool, a topic that's emerged, and I think COVID has had a little bit to do with this, but we have three sessions that look at the emerging role of telemedicine in pulmonary care. And so those would be very interesting to see where we're at. And as I said, probably quite significantly advanced by what we've been through for the last couple of years with the pandemic.

Jessica Bard:

Jam packed with information there, let's talk about research topics now. Please provide a list of the hot research topics that will be discussed at this year event.

Dr Andrew Halayko:

Yeah, I mean, basic research is quite diverse and it's often technology driven, but it's usually related to how we try to understand the clinical issues that arise, so it's a beautiful compliment and one of the strengths I think, of the American Thoracic Society conference that our basic science research really is linked in a very applied way to the knowledge gaps linked to clinical medicine. Every year we have a basic science core curriculum that changes selected by the conference committee from year to year in a working group specifically for that, this year's topic is cell senescence in lung disease. And that also has some overlap with research on lung aging and the effects of aging and lung biology. And we've got two sessions that are specifically organized by a working group on this topic, these compliment 5 other sessions that really touch on the topic of cell senescence and long aging, and it really crosses multiple disease types.

That's a very exciting theme that runs through from Sunday to Wednesday at the conference. We also have a number of other sessions that highlight new advances in basic research. These have more of a technology focus and the tools that we can use, there are 4 sessions with specific focus. And one I will bring to your attention is a session on mRNA technologies. This is a session that we ask the leaders of the Science and Innovation Center to develop for us. And it's an example of where we're trying to bring together the elements of the conference in a more coherent and cogent way, so we've got the activities of that Science and Innovation Center directly now overlapping with what's being programmed by the international conference committee, which is not something that's sort of been the norm in the past, so we're really excited to see how that synergy might evolve.

We've got other topics that are sort of the standard expected and the usual sort of discovery research and translational research focus on asthma, pathobiology, and new treatments, at least 4 or 5 sessions in that space. We've got 4 sessions in COPD overlapping with theme of aging and senescence to some degree that I've talked about. A fairly robust program, I think 4 sessions on pulmonary fibrosis, it's treatment, care, and how that pathobiology fits and drives those advances, so really showing you the place for basic research and how it drives healthcare forward. Pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary vascular disease, there are 6 symposia covering those topics throughout the sessions and these are fairly diverse sessions that range from the origins of the disease, to effects of treatments, and basic research that are identifying new targets for potential future treatments.

And then the last one I'll point out is, and I haven't mentioned it specifically yet is lung infection and tuberculosis. I mean, these are themes that are always present in almost everything we do in pulmonary medicine. And the basic research associated with those is quite significant, so there are seven sessions that focus on basic and translational research related to tuberculosis and lung infections in general and how they affect the lung health, so it's a very exciting program. And as I have already said, I love the way it integrates with or compliments the clinical focus of our meeting.

Jessica Bard:

Any other topics that you'd like to mention?

Dr Andrew Halayko:

Sure, there are always some specialty or some unique sessions. There are three, I think I could mention for you for this year, so every year the president plans a symposium, so this year Lynn Schnapp, Dr Schnapp has organized a president symposium that will really feature the fact that this year is the 40th anniversary as it were of the discovery of the first identification of a case of HIV in the United States, so the topic of her sessions really looking how HIV interfaces with respiratory health and respiratory care, so that'll be very exciting. We've got another session, which is something that happens at all of our meetings and we call it the journals session, so this is one in which the editors of all of the American Thoracic Society journals come together, all four of them. And they give presentations about the status of their journals, how best to get your papers published, as well as featuring a fairly large discussion component where people can ask questions from the editors as to what do I need to do to get my papers published in your journal.

And one thing that's very exciting this year is they are going to specifically feature one paper that's about to be released in the Blue Journal. And this is an article written by Martin Tobin, who actually is a former Blue Journal editor himself. And it's entitled the 50th Anniversary of the Uncovering of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. And this is really a remarkable story that I was quite taken aback and found very compelling when I saw it about the misuse of power in the case of human research, medical research, and how this can really go off the rails. And it's really a story of why we have ethics boards, why we have rules about human ethics and human studies. And I think anyone who does human clinical research, whether it's pulmonary or not will find this story absolutely fascinating, so there is a 15-minute slot in there where that paper, which I believe will be released, and there'll be a fair amount of press release associated with it just before the conference.

If for no other reason that the journal session, I think will be very exciting to hear that story from Dr Tobin, who tells a very compelling story. The other 2, I would just like to highlight are Memorial sessions, so one is the Richard Light symposium it focuses on plural diseases and the state of the art in terms of pleural disease, diagnosis, and management. That's always exciting, or it's always wonderful rather when we can highlight a colleague for their accomplishments and the other relates to biomarkers in lung cancer, so this is a Memorial symposium honoring Pierre Massion led by the Thoracic Oncology Session. So those are 2 memorial sessions that are on the top of my list that people should consider attending.

Jessica Bard:

My last question for you here, is there anything different that participants can expect this year?

Dr Andrew Halayko:

Yeah, there's a couple mostly related to COVID. And so as you'll know, if you go on the website and I would direct anybody to go to our conference website for the specific information, there will be some rules around participation at the conference, so ATS is requiring all attendees at the conference to be fully vaccinated for COVID. And if you're going to be attending any ATS sponsored events, you'll be required to wear a mask. The California COVID laws or regulations will hold when you're not in the ATS events, which is a recommendation for masks at the Moscone Center. One of the things we've done due to COVID and cleaning protocols that have to be in place is we've actually shortened for this conference, the normal length of symposia, typically with these would be 2-hour sessions. We've gone to 90 minutes for practical reasons this year, but the way we've coordinated the sessions, when you look at the program, you'll see we've done this in a manner that, that half-hour is not being lost per se.

It now becomes a half hour that is really built for establishing or enabling networking and interaction between participants. And so in the typical case of the busy conference attendee, where you're sitting through a session, and then maybe you're jumping up and running to the next session, so you don't miss it. Now you've got 30 minutes and you could envision then spending a little time going and seeking out the speaker that you didn't ask a question to, but you would really like to bend their ear for a few minutes, so we're really hoping that element of this conference will be enhanced. That probably will be quite possible as well because we're anticipating, as probably expected a smaller crowd than we typically get. I think the travel for international members is still a little tenuous. We're hoping that as we get closer and closer, people will get the bug and come, but anyways we're anticipating 60 to 70% of normal capacity at the conference, which will still be a pretty big crowd in San Francisco, so it'll be very exciting.

The networking perhaps even a little more advantageous, just slightly smaller crowd. And then something I've alluded to, which maybe isn't going to be as obvious to the attendee as it is to those of us that are programming is a degree of cohesion in the program that is starting to emerge. And what I'm specifically referring to is the interface between the programming done by the International Conference Committee, so the symposia, the abstract sessions, that kind of thing, and how they are now complimenting and overlapping in some cases with what's happening in the affiliated centers and meeting places at the conference. An example would be the Clinician Center mentioned earlier about the IPF and PFF guidelines that will be presented at that center, so now you're seeing direct overlap or interaction rather, complimenting the programs in both sessions, we've got the International Participant Center, so we've worked actually fairly closely with the International Health Committee trying to embrace our international attendees, but also work that is directed towards global health and featuring that.

Some of the speakers in both the Participant Center, the International Participant Center and in the symposia of the main program are overlapping and complimentary, so that's something we worked hard for. And I also alluded to the fact that these Science and Innovation Center has got a symposium that they've programmed for us, and they'll be featuring Messenger RNA technologies there, so there's some cohesion there that I think people will notice in those spaces. And it's a direction I believe that we'll be going in future. And so this will be a nice sort of test run for us. All in all, I think it'll be a very exciting meeting, the overarching excitement that we are hearing as we get to see each other, I anticipate there's going to be a lot of hugging and a lot of yelling, Hey, how are you? In and amongst attending the conferences and I'm really looking forward to seeing some faces I haven't seen in almost three years.

Jessica Bard:

Sure, it's certainly something to look forward to. Well, thank you so much for your time today on the podcast. I think it's safe to say ATS 2022 is jam packed with useful content, so I'm looking forward to it myself. And thank you very much for your time today.

Dr Andrew Halayko:

It's my pleasure. Thanks for having us.