ADA Scientific Sessions Will Forge Ahead Virtually, Intact

Miriam E. Tucker

June 08, 2020

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) 80th Scientific Sessions will forge ahead virtually this year in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly all of its originally scheduled content to be presented online.

The meeting will take place online June 12-16, the same days it was slated to occur in Chicago and at the same times. All presentations were recorded in advance, but participants will be able to ask real-time questions during some sessions. Registered attendees — who paid a reduced fee — will have access to the online content for 90 days afterward. 

ADA announced the shift in plans on April 3, after Chicago's McCormick Place convention center became unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some major medical meetings had to be canceled entirely or trimmed down online, "This is one of the international meetings that has had more time to really get ready to plan such a virtual session," association co-president Robert H. Eckel, MD, told Medscape Medical News.

This year's program features fewer blockbuster randomized clinical trials than in years past.

But it does offer a huge amount of clinical research focused on both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, children with diabetes, gestational diabetes, and much more. Also included are deep dives into optimal clinical translation of findings from previous cardiovascular outcomes trials (CVOTs).

Noteworthy sessions include four new automated insulin delivery system trials on Friday, new diabetes-specific data from the DAPA-HF trial on Saturday, and a debate on Sunday about the future of metformin as first-line therapy for people with established heart disease or at high risk.

And on Tuesday morning, full results from the CVOT VERTIS-CV, with the sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor ertugliflozin (Steglatro, Merck), will be reported.

Also presented on Tuesday will be the first cardiovascular and cancer outcomes from the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study (DPPOS).

The online content will cover approximately 90% of what was originally scheduled, meeting planning committee chair Jose C. Florez, MD, PhD, told Medscape Medical News.

There is no session officially addressing COVID-19, he said, because the topics were already finalized by February, but "I'm sure it will be discussed in informal exchanges...the data are just coming out," he said.

Florez also called attention to two symposia addressing the other major topic dominating today's news: racial disparities. One on Friday will address that topic with regard to maternal/fetal health, and another on Monday will cover disparities in diabetes care generally.

"Both because of COVID-19 and how it has affected people with diabetes, and within that, disadvantaged people, more aggressively, and in the current context of how racism is coming to the surface, these two sessions will become very, very pertinent," he said.

Putting the Treatment Pieces Together in Type 2 Diabetes

The Evaluation of Ertugliflozin Efficacy and Safety Cardiovascular Outcomes Trial (VERTIS-CV) session will include the major cardiovascular, metabolic, renal, and safety outcomes for that drug, along with a meta-analysis of outcomes from trials of several different SGLT2 inhibitors.

All eyes will be on the VERTIS-CV presentation because ertugliflozin broke ranks with the other drugs in this class and failed to produce statistically significant drops in the relevant endpoints, as detailed in top-line data issued by the company in April.

And the provocatively titled session, "DAPA-HF Update: Have We Lost SGLT2 inhibitors to Cardiologists?!" will include a review of the trial's main findings presented at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in September 2019, and published a few weeks later in the New England Journal of Medicine, along with new data on patient-centered and metabolic outcomes, and diabetes prevention. An independent commentator will presumably address the session title's question.

Eckel, who has been working to establish a new cardiometabolic medicine subspecialty, commented: "I think we have not lost it, but I think SGLT2 inhibitors are a perfect example of why we need physicians trained in this overlap of diabetes medicine and cardiology."

And, he said, we may be coming to the end of the CVOTs trial phenomenon.

"I think unless there's a whole new class of drugs developed, we may be done with CVOTs for dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors, SGLT2 inhibitors, and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. We've learned a lot, and I'm not sure we need more other than mechanistic studies...I don't think we really know yet how SGLT2 inhibitors or GLP-1 agonists work," Eckel said.

Metformin, on the other hand, has not been subject to a CVOT because it has been available as a generic since long before the US Food and Drug Administration mandated the CVOTs for new drugs for type 2 diabetes in 2008.

Such a trial is unlikely to be conducted at this point, but the new DPPOS data might actually come close, Florez noted.

The DPPOS is the observational follow-up of the landmark randomized DPP trial, which found that intensive lifestyle intervention and metformin reduced progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.

Numerous additional outcomes have been reported over the years, but this will be the first-ever reporting of DPPOS data on both hard cardiovascular events and cancer incidence in people who have been continuously taking metformin for more than 20 years.

"There's a lot of interest in whether metformin has an effect on cardiovascular events and cancer...I think that's going to be a very interesting session," Florez said, noting that "short of a randomized clinical trial, which it's hard to imagine would come to be, this is really, really good."

Also examining metformin will be a debate on Sunday, "Should Metformin Be Considered First-Line Therapy for Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes With Established Arteriosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD) or at High Risk for ASCVD?"

And on Saturday, a debate will address another old-guard diabetes drug class, asking: "Is There a Current Place for Sulfonylureas in the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes?"

Overall, Florez said, meeting attendees will come away with "a more clear understanding of the placement of SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 agonists in the type 2 diabetes treatment algorithm."

"What are the settings in which these [newer] drugs ought to be used, compared to the old-timers like metformin and sulfonylureas? One thing is having the trials, but the other is figuring out how you interpret these in deciding what happens at the point of care."

Two more future-looking type 2 diabetes symposia of potential interest to clinicians are "Unraveling the Heterogeneity in Type 2 Diabetes" on Sunday and "Perspectives on the Future of Precision Diabetes Medicine — A Joint ADA/EASD Symposium" on Monday.

Type 1 Diabetes, Technology, and Kids

A symposium on Friday will feature four new clinical trials of automated insulin delivery systems for people with type 1 diabetes, the "US Advanced Hybrid Closed-Loop (AHCL) Pivotal Safety Study, FLAIR — An NIDDK-Sponsored International, Multi-site Randomized Crossover Trial of AHCL vs 670G," the New Zealand AHCL randomized crossover trial, and the Horizon Automated Glucose Control System pre-pivotal trial data.

"Closed-loop devices are getting a lot of traction...These trials will continue to advance the notion that these devices will narrow the glycemic range, prevent hypoglycemia, and improve quality of life because people don't have to pay as much attention mentally to the management of the diabetes," Florez said.

He added that although these trials "have been in the works for a while and they're not big surprises, they continue to build a body of evidence suggesting that these devices will be part of our armamentarium in the very near future."

And on Saturday, a debate will address the somewhat controversial question of whether continuous glucose monitoring in type 2 diabetes is worth the cost.

There will also be plenty of pediatric diabetes material presented this year, too.

On Sunday, there will be new insights from the Restoring Insulin Secretion (RISE) study, which examines prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in youth, and on Monday, 20-year data from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study will be reported.

And on Monday, the most recent findings from The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) study of environmental triggers of type 1 diabetes will be presented.

All-Virtual Meeting: Pros and Cons

The all-virtual meeting format will have pluses and minuses, Eckel predicts.

Advantages include the fact that attendees don't have to physically run from room to room or make difficult decisions about conflicting sessions.

"The fact that this meeting will be taking place in reality in terms of the timing of sessions, one can transition from one room to another in a matter of seconds if you want to," he noted.

However, he observed, "a lot of interesting things happen in the hallways at meetings. Colleagues from around the world get together and knock heads about their ongoing research and potential collaborations can be formulated."

"Opportunities to engage with one another beyond the formality of the meeting is going to be lost to some extent."

What's more, the sessions will all be in Central US (Chicago) time, "So if you live in Thailand, the session may be occurring at a time when you're in bed. If you want to see it live, then you've got to get up. Then you can ask a question."

On the other hand, since all the content will be available online for 90 days, "if you want to stay in bed and you live in Thailand, you can get up a week from now during the day and log into a session you may have missed."

Indeed, Florez said, "One silver lining of this virtual conference is that we've lowered the barriers for people to attend. It's much more global. We've had an amazing influx of new registrants who were not planning on coming and were not registered for the original meeting and have registered since [more than 10,000 at the time of writing], and they continue to pile in."

"We plan to reach people we haven't reached before. The big question for ADA moving forward will be how much this can become a permanent feature, where even if we do it in person in the future, maybe we offer at least some virtual options so that our reach can go farther."

Eckel has reported sitting on the scientific advisory board for a Kowa Company trial of pemafibrate and on an advisory board for Novo Nordisk. Florez has reported being a speaker for Novo Nordisk and receiving an honorarium from ADA for chairing the conference planning committee.

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