The research group plans to look at two of the most promising herbal remedies for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) disease; serenoa repens also called saw palmetto, and pygeum africanum, an extract from the inner bark of the African pygeum tree.
Dr Nickel, professor of urology at Queen's and urologist at Kingston General Hospital (KGH), has been awarded four research grants from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the study. Nickel and Kingston colleagues will examine alternative, complementary and novel therapies for prostate and bladder disease, affecting more than 50 per cent of the adult population.
"For these diseases, traditional medicine has offered all it can. Alternative herbal therapies, which people have been using for more than 4,000 years, complementary therapies, and radically novel treatments must be evaluated by traditional clinical scientists, to determine their true effectiveness and safety," said Dr Nickel.
The NIH has been directed by the US Congress to look at herbal therapies that now make up a billion-dollar industry in North America.
The new studies involve laboratory research and clinical trials into Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), a disease found in aging men as their prostate gland grows and Interstitial Cystitis, a bladder disease that affects women. Neither have known causes nor effective treatment.
The study will assess the efficacy and safety of the plant extract quercetin, a natural anti-inflammatory agent, as well as complementary therapies such as acupuncture.
The new programs will build on findings from the group's earlier $2-million pilot project, also funded by NIH, which was completed earlier this year.
"One of the reasons we received these grants is that we believe the two areas of disease, one mainly in women and the other in men, are related. The treatments we're looking at, for prostate disease in men and bladder disease in women, will be very similar," said Dr Nickel.
Trials are scheduled to begin this spring and will involve more than 3,000 men and women throughout southern Ontario. As the population base in southeastern Ontario could not support such large clinical trials, Dr Nickel is collaborating with two Toronto researchers who will recruit volunteers from a network of primary care urologists in private practice.