Research Articles


AUA Research Weekend

The AUA is excited to present Research Weekend as part of the 2020 Virtual Experience! On-demand webcasts of some of the most popular research programming will be available beginning on July 10, 2020. Webcasts are free for AUA members and available to non-members at a significantly reduced rate. Register Today!

Available on Friday, July 10

Basic Sciences Symposium: "Novel Technologies for Benign Urology Research"
Program Chairs: Margot Damaser, PhD and Robert Gereau, PhD
Recent technological advances are enabling both rapid scientific advancement and the development of improvements in clinical care. This webcast brings together pioneers in technology development with researchers and clinicians interested in benign urology research to discuss new findings under the following themes: tissue engineering and nanotechnology, novel technologies for wireless monitoring and control, and technology-enabled advances in neural control.

Urologic Oncology Research Symposium: "Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors: Impact of Macro and Microenvironment on Efficacy"
Program Chairs: Peter Black, MD and William Kim, MD
Rapid growth in the field of immune checkpoint inhibition has transformed treatment paradigms for genitourinary cancers, and the use of immunotherapy is under active investigation in almost all genitourinary malignancies and disease states. This webcast will provide opportunities for new knowledge about the tumor immune microenvironment of genitourinary tumors as well as host factors that may impact immune checkpoint (IC) response, and explore novel targets as well as non-IC immunotherapy modalities.

Available on Saturday, July 11

Challenges for Urologic Research: "Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning”
Program Chair: Craig Niederberger, MD
Robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning are playing increasingly important roles in research and clinical practice. This webcast is designed to review current applications of these technologies, describe the underlying science and engineering that make these tools possible, and explore how they will drive future innovations in urology research and practice.

Early-Career Investigators Showcase
This webcast is dedicated to the work of some of the best and brightest new investigators in urology, showcasing their discoveries in high-impact basic, translational, and clinical research. Participants are nominated by AUA Sections, sub-specialty societies, or members of the AUA Board of Directors or AUA Research Council and Committees. Ten nominees have been selected by a peer-review panel to present their research via webcast presentations, and digital scientific posters from all nominees will be available for viewing.


AUA and Urology Care Foundation Research Programs Adapt in Response to COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for conducting biomedical research. Nearly all physical urology research laboratories and non-essential clinics were closed to prevent virus transmission, which immediately hindered every type of research – whether basic science, preclinical involving time-sensitive animal studies, or clinical studies requiring patient recruitment. Ongoing research will likely now take longer than originally proposed or may not be completed without an extension (sometimes with cost), and achieving all aims of funded studies may no longer be possible.

The pandemic may also negatively impact urology researcher recruitment and retention through diminished institutional support for trainees and early-career investigators. Potential changes include hiring freezes and limitations from lack of childcare, among other challenges, although funding agencies and institutions are already considering changes to time-in-training requirements and promotional timetables to help address these issues. In addition, proposed coursework may need to be modified, and changes to manuscript and grant application review are likely.

The AUA is regularly communicating with its Research Council and others to understand the evolving challenges presented by COVID-19 and to assess the best path forward with current research initiatives. As a result, the AUA has developed a mitigation strategy for current and new UCF research awardees that emphasizes maximum flexibility for reporting requirements and no-cost extensions, and the assurance that all existing Foundation financial commitments will be met. Importantly, the AUA is conducting individual outreach to ensure that we understand and can address the specific challenges facing each awardee. In addition, the AUA is in the process of reviewing all 2021 award competition timelines to appropriately accommodate any major changes to fellowship selection, medical education, or other related timelines.

The AUA has also adapted its in-person symposia and workshops into virtual offerings. The “Advancing Bladder Preservation: Biomarkers, Decision-Making, and Therapy” symposium—co-sponsored with the Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute—was held on March 6-7, 2020 and rapidly integrated a video conference option for over half of registered attendees who could not attend in-person due to institutional travel bans. Looking forward to the summer, the AUA is delivering its annual Basic Sciences Symposium, Urology Oncology Research Symposium, Challenges of Urology Research series, and Early-Career Investigators Showcase through on-demand webcasts as part of the AUA Virtual Experience (see AUA Research Weekend article below). This content is free for AUA members and available to non-members at a significantly reduced rate. Finally, the AUA is in the process of evaluating virtual options for the Early-Career Investigators Workshop scheduled for October.

The UCF Board recently discussed the impact of the pandemic on future UCF research funding and unanimously re-affirmed their commitment to continue finding new ways to support urology research, despite financial challenges currently being experienced across most funding organizations, in order to maintain our momentum as being a leading supporter of urologic research for early-career investigators.


Making an IMPACT

Practice Guidelines Save Lives: Standardizing Pediatric Care for UPJ Obstruction

Vijaya Vemulakonda, MD

Dr. Vijaya Vemulakonda specializes in treating pediatric urologic conditions and one of her main research interests is finding better ways to treat infants born with ureteropelvic junction (UPJ) obstruction. UPJ obstruction occurs when there is a blockage in the patient’s ureter where it joins the kidney, which restricts the flow of urine and can lead to swelling of the kidney. Despite the prevalence of this disease in children, there has been little research into the roles of both parents and surgeons in the decision-making process for treating this condition, or the impact of parental and surgeon preferences on treatment.

With the combined support of a Urology Care Foundation Rising Stars in Urology Research Award and an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHQR) Career Development Award, Dr. Vemulakonda will explore how different factors influence treatment variations in infants with suspected UPJ obstruction. Her goal is to leverage these data to develop evidence-based guidelines to improve pediatric care.

Dr. Vemulakonda’s lab conducted interviews with parents and pediatric urologists of infants with suspected UPJ obstruction. She found that parents and surgeons agreed that decisions for treatment should be shared, but that the surgeon was best equipped to guide the decision. Surgeons recognized a lack of data regarding the optimal indications for surgery, using their own experience and personal algorithms to fill this gap. While parents reported being active participants in the decision-making process, the primary factor guiding their decisions was trust in the surgeon and his or her recommendations. Overall, both parents and surgeons were satisfied with their role in the decision-making process. These findings suggest that variations in treatment may be primarily driven by surgeon preferences rather than parental preferences and that parents may prefer a more directive approach to surgical decisions for their children in some circumstances. Her team is now using these findings to inform a multi-center prospective study to more clearly define these variations and their impact on patient outcomes.

Dr. Vemulakonda writes, “The Urology Care Foundation Rising Stars Award helped protect my research time and improved the sustainability of my research career. Their support of this important work has played a major role in driving the success of my research efforts to date.”