AASLD will pilot a fellows’ Academic Debates program on Tuesday, May 19, at DDW® 2015.

During the inaugural event, three-person teams of young clinicians will be guided by experienced mentors as they debate the role of transplant for acute alcoholic hepatitis and allocation of hepatitis C (HCV) treatment. The purpose of the program is to challenge gastroenterology trainees and practitioners to think critically about important and controversial issues in hepatology.

AASLD Secretary Gary L. Davis, MD, FACP, said the concept for the session was adopted from medical centers in the Midwest, which have organized these types of debates for several years through the American Liver Foundation. Based on the success of those debates, Dr. Davis expects the program to be among the most popular AASLD sessions at DDW and a fixture at the meeting for years to come.

Dr. Davis, who is retired and living in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, highlighted several other hot topics and noteworthy AASLD sessions at DDW. He said researchers submitted 638 abstracts, a 15 percent increase from last year and the highest number for the society at DDW in a decade.

“HCV has really plateaued [as a topic among submitted abstracts] and we are seeing fibrosis, liver failure, liver cancer and even hepatitis B starting to increase,” Dr. Davis said. “It’s an interesting phenomenon and I think it reflects all the liver failure that is being seen in clinics, mostly from the fact that we have not until recently been able to knock out HCV.”

The best abstracts in basic and clinical hepatology will be presented during two AASLD Plenary Sessions on Sunday, May 17. Researchers will present their work and then have it critiqued by a senior academician and the audience.

Two concurrent Clinical Symposia on Sunday will review Prospects for Therapy of Hepatic Fibrosis and Hepatitis C Recommendations for 2015. Another Sunday session, this one co-sponsored with the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, is titled Non-Cirrhotic Portal Hypertension and Congenital Portosystemic Shunts: Multidisciplinary Approach to Recognition, Evaluation and Management.

Another hot topic on this year’s program is the use of noninvasive markers for diagnosing fibrosis and liver failure. On Monday, May 18, Nezam H. Afdhal, MD, FAASLD, will present a state-of-the-art lecture titled Non-Invasive Assessment of Fibrosis. Dr. Afdhal is director of hepatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Then on Tuesday, AASLD will team up with AGA for a joint session that will feature six abstracts studying noninvasive methods to measure fibrosis in liver disease.

“That is really a hot area that people are very interested in,” Dr. Davis said. “Anything to stop doing liver biopsies; the patients and the doctors appreciate that.”

The AASLD program also features sessions on the fecal microbiome and new therapies for HCV.

On Monday, Nancy Reau, MD, FAASLD, assistant professor of medicine in the hepatology department of the University of Chicago Medical Center, will present a state-of-the-art lecture titled Issues in Hepatitis C: Identification, Access to Care and Cost.

“People are starting to hear about this more than they have in the past now that insurers are being overwhelmed with requests to pay for these drugs,” Dr. Davis said. “The drugs don’t cost any more than they did before, but everyone has come out of the woodwork since interferons have disappeared.”

Other topics that will be covered in state-of-the-art lectures include iron overload disease and managing alcoholic liver disease. The AASLD program also includes a variety of research and topic fora that will take place Sunday through Tuesday at DDW 2015.