An international team has been formed to help quickly determine life-threatening cases of prostate cancer compared with cancer that may not require treatment.

The University of Adelaide's Associate Professor Lisa Butler, based at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), has been given AUD$3.25 million to establish an international research team whose work aims to make a direct impact on clinical care for prostate cancer patients throughout the world.

"One of the most urgent needs in prostate cancer management is the ability to distinguish - at the time of diagnosis - between patients with significant life-threatening cancer, and those with organ-confined cancer that may not need to be treated at all," says Associate Professor Butler.

Associate Professor Butler says the three-year project will focus on lipids, which are the building blocks of cells, in prostate tumours as a completely new way of predicting the cancer's future behaviour.

"Our aim is to identify a specific signature of lipids that can be readily detected in the tumour tissue, using state-of-the-art imaging, to help determine which tumours are more likely to spread aggressively through the body," she says.

"Our study will extend from the bench to the bedside and will facilitate rapid clinical implementation of the markers we identify."

Associate Professor Butler is Head of the Prostate Cancer Group in the University of Adelaide's School of Medicine and the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men's Health, and is based in the Cancer Theme at SAHMRI.

The team will consist mainly of University of Adelaide and SAHMRI researchers, as well as collaborators at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Melbourne, the University of Sydney, and the University of Leuven, Belgium.