Research

ARA16: Where precision medicine meets patient


The Northern Territory has been waiting 57 years for its chance to host the Australian Rheumatology Association’s annual conference. This year their moment has finally come – in just over a week around 600 delegates will congregate in Darwin to listen and learn from a great line up of international and national speakers. We caught up with conference co-convenor Bain Shenstone to get a taster of the conference highlights.

Precision medicine meets patient

The theme of this year’s conference is a marriage of personalised medicine meets patient – with precision medicine, genomics and genetics at one end and the patient at the other.

“It reminds us that although we have cutting edge science at our fingertips we’ve still got the patient in front of us – we need to put this into one coherent package with the patient at the centre,” Dr Shenstone says.

Rheumatology in a nutshell

At the opening plenary on Saturday afternoon a cast of international and national experts will give the “low down” on the highlights in rheumatology in their particular area of expertise. This line-up includes Professor Iain McInnes, Director of the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation in the University of Glasgow.

McInnes has a proven track record of delivering entertaining and very informative talks, says Shenstone. As part of the plenary he will talk about rheumatoid arthritis but he will also be talking about tendinopathy alongside Dr Bethan Richards who will address controversies in treatments. (Monday: 11:30-12:30).

 Epigenetics, poo and arthritis

What do epigenetics, poo, and arthritis have in common? If you attend the session on genetics and epigenetics on Sunday afternoon you’ll find out. Keynote speaker Professor Tim Spector, Director of the TwinsUK Registry at Kings College, London will explore the relationship between epigenetics and the gut microbiome (Sunday 14:00-15:30).

In another talk later on in the conference he’ll address the issue of omics and precision medicine for the rheumatologist (Tuesday: 8:30-10:00am). This will be counter-balanced by a talk from Dr Chris Needs who will discuss patients’ cultural backgrounds, says Dr Shenstone.

Lupus 101

Professor Sandra Navarra from the Phillipines is one of the heavy weights of lupus, particularly with regards to patient-centred approaches to management.

As well as giving delegates an overview of lupus in the opening ceremony she will give her insights into involving patients in research as well as treatment decisions. Complementing her will be Susan Bartlett from Canada who will be talking about patient centred approaches – from ethics, to planning research, to communicating and motivating patients.

Indigenous health and wellbeing

It just so happens that the headquarters for the Menzies School of Health Research are in Darwin. In a plenary session on Sunday (8:30-10:00) Menzies Director Professor Alan Cass will be talking about national priorities in addressing health disparities for Indigenous Australians. In the same session local paediatric cardiologist Dr Bo Remenyi will talk about rheumatic fever.

Tropical medicine

Professor Sandra Navarra will take to the stage again to give a rheumatologist’s view of topical diseases. In this session dengue, Zika and meliodosis and other ‘achy breakies’ will be addressed.

There’s always more

Of course there’s lots of other great sessions to attend, so check out the full program here. Be sure to follow @thelimbicrheum and fellow tweeps on twitter #ARA16.

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