Are Two European Stroke Conferences Feasible?

September 04, 2015

The creation of a new stroke conference in Europe has meant that two European stroke conferences were held within a month of each other this past spring — a situation that is scheduled to be repeated next year. But are two European meetings so close to each other feasible?

Traditionally, there has been one stroke meeting in Europe: the aptly named European Stroke Conference (ESC). This conference has been taking place annually since 1990 and is still run by the original founder, Professor Michael Hennerici, director of the Neurological University Hospital Mannheim of Heidelberg University, Germany. This meeting was held this year on May 13-15 in Vienna, Austria.

Professor Michael Hennerici

While the European Stroke Organization (ESO) has previously supported the ESC, the organization has now decided to run its own conference instead. So the Inaugural European Stroke Organization (ESO) Conference was held this year in Glasgow on April 17-19, led by current ESO President Professor Kennedy Lees, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Valeria Caso, MD, PhD, a stroke neurologist at the University of Perugia Stroke Unit, Italy, and president elect of ESO, explained to Medscape Medical News that while ESO had historically offered intellectual support to the ESC meeting, it did not officially run that meeting and "it was felt that there should be a European meeting on stroke led by a nonprofit democratic organization such as the European Stroke Organization."

Dr Valeria Caso

Keith Muir, MD, also from the University of Glasgow, who was a member of the ESO conference 2015 faculty, told Medscape Medical News that within the ESO, "it was felt that that the main European stroke meeting should be run by an organization with democratic principles behind it. The ESC has been run as a private enterprise by the same group every year headed up by the same individual. This was not felt to be a sustainable model anymore.

"It was agreed that the model for the future needed a professional educational body to lead the conference and that body should be one in which different experts should be voted in as president each year, as happens in most other disciplines now, so ESO went ahead and set up an entirely new conference," Dr Muir said. "Enormous credit needs to go to Ken Lees for driving this forward."

He said the ESO meeting this year had been "very well supported by other stroke associations from around the world, our international colleagues and the industry."

Medscape Medical News attended both meetings and can report that the ESO meeting in Glasgow attracted the major clinical science and international names.

The 3000-seat main auditorium of the Scottish Exhibition Centre in Glasgow was almost full for the ESO conference opening session, at which Professor Lees announced that the original single late-breaking clinical trials session had had to be expanded into three separate sessions on three different days to accommodate "so many great clinical science studies submitted."

ESO Meeting 2015

These new clinical studies included several large-scale randomized trials, two of which were published simultaneously in The New England Journal of Medicine and another one in The Lancet. The major news included three new positive endovascular trials in acute stroke, the first-ever large-scale randomized trial of stroke rehabilitation, and initial results from the first clinical experience of neural cell transplantation.

In a letter of thanks to delegates published on the ESO website after the meeting, Professor Lees called the first ESO conference "an outstanding success."

"When the overwhelming wish of our association was expressed just 11 months ago that we should establish a new conference, we barely dared to hope for 800-1,000 delegates in our first year," he writes. "The reality was that 84 countries were represented in Glasgow, and that delegate numbers were close to 2,700."

He adds: "Certainly, we have shown what a large and happy family we are in stroke medicine, and that Europe stands not alone but with societies and individuals all across the world. We will build on this success, we will maintain the spirit and principles that informed ESOC 2015."

The ESO conference was also well supported by the pharmaceutical industry, with a large exhibition area and many of the major stroke companies present.

In contrast, the ESC meeting, held 1 month later in Vienna, was much quieter. The science presented consisted mainly of small pilot or retrospective studies, and there were no simultaneous publications in major journals. The exhibition area was also smaller, with just a few exhibitors.

ESC Meeting 2015

According to official figures released by the two meetings, the Glasgow ESO meeting had around 2700 attendees registered vs 1600 at the ESC meeting in Vienna.

One delegate who attended both meetings but was not affiliated with either commented to Medscape Medical News, "The ESO conference obviously got the main clinical science. All the big names and major clinical trials were there. The ESC has obviously suffered as a result."

The delegate, who preferred not to be identified, said he did not think it would be feasible to hold these two meetings again so close together.

"There may be room for two meetings, but they will either have to have different profiles or be held at different times of the year," he commented. "If the ESO conference is going to be the primary meeting for the major new science as this year has been the case, then perhaps ESC will have to carve out a different niche," he suggested.

Several presenters at ESC told Medscape Medical News that they came to that meeting because they were offered an oral presentation for their study but had been offered only a poster at ESO.

But Professor Hennerici was adamant that the ESC meeting will continue. "The ESC has always been the primary stroke conference in Europe," he commented to Medscape Medical News.

He believes there is room for both meetings. "With the two meetings together there were almost four and half thousand delegates in total. That has never been achieved before. If it means more doctors are attending a stroke meeting then that is a good thing. People can choose which one they want to go to or maybe go to both. There are many other stroke meetings as well as these two European ones. There is room for them all," he added.

The announcements of both meetings have been made for next year. The ESC is scheduled to be in Venice, Italy, on April 13-15, 2016, while the ESO meeting will be held in Barcelona, Spain, on May 10-12, 2016.

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