Christobel Saunders


  • The University of Western Australia (M509), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


Calculated based on number of publications stored in Pure and citations from Scopus

Personal profile


Professor Christobel Saunders AO, MB BS, FRCS, FRACS, FAAHMS, is internationally recognised as one of Australia’s most prominent research-orientated cancer surgeons. She has substantially contributed to many clinical aspects of breast cancer research including clinical trials of new treatments, psychosocial, translational and health services research and is active in several areas of surgical oncology cancer research, with a particular emphasis on breast cancer. She has performed research for >30 years evaluating the efficacy and utility of therapy for early breast cancer. Her career started as a surgical trainee in the UK and then Consultant Surgeon and Senior Lecturer at University College Hospitals in London, before moving to Australia in 2000 as a surgeon at Royal Perth Hospital and since 2002 as Professor of Surgical Oncology at the University of Western Australia and holds both clinical and research roles in the breast and melanoma cancer field.

Christobel is closely involved in strategic planning and management of cancer services in Western Australia as author of the WA Health Cancer Services Framework and as first A/Director, WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network, past President of the Cancer Council WA, past President of the Breast Surgical Society of ANZ, and nationally as past Advisory Council member of organisations such as Cancer Australia. She is the Inaugural Chair of the state Health Service Provider, PathWest Laboratory Medicine.

In recognition of her sustained career excellence and original contributions to scholarly writing and innovation, Christobel has been publicly acknowledged through numerous awards and honours the most recent being the Uccio Querci della Rovere Award (November 2018), AO (Order of Australia), “For distinguished service to medical education in the field of surgical oncology, to the diagnosis and management of breast cancer and melanoma, as an academic, researcher and clinician” (2018) and being admitted as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Medical and Health Sciences (October 2016). Christobel has also been awarded a Certificate of Outstanding Service from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (2010). Christobel has a passion for health and medical research, patient advocacy and an exceptional clinical track record in the management and treatment of breast cancer. Christobel’s research covers a wide diversity of areas including clinical trials of new treatments, psychosocial research and translational and health services research.

Christobel has an exceptional funding track record as an investor, having attracted a career total of over $54 million in over 50 competitive research grants. She has published over 200 scientific papers in refereed journals, (120 in the past 5 years), three books and 18 book chapters. Translation of her research into improvements in patient care has been facilitated through her roles as Executive member of a number of groups within the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, in the development of numerous guidelines for both patients and clinicians, and as a Fellow of the Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. Based on Professor Saunders’ research and advocacy, there have been a number of advances in the management of breast cancer in Australia. These include the use of breast MRI to screen high risk women (and the successful introduction of a Medicare Item number for this) coming directly from her leadership of a national advocacy group; and a successful application to list intraoperative radiotherapy as a new item on the Medicare Benefit Schedule in 2015.

Roles and responsibilities

Professor Surgical Oncology, University of Western Australia, November 2002 -
Director Cancer and Palliative Care Research and Evaluation Unit, University of Western Australia, 2008 -
Consultant Surgeon, St John of God Hospital Subiaco 2012-
Consultant Surgeon,Fiona Stanley Hospital 2015 -
Director Breast Cancer Research, St John of God Hospital Subiaco 2015 –
Chief Medical Officer, OncoRes Medical2019-
Chair,PathWest Laboratory Medicine Western Australia 2020 –

Funding overview


Chief Investigators: Christobel Saunders, Katharine Giles

Title: Funding for R&D laboratories development

Year / Duration: 2021

Amount: $150,000

Source: New Industries Fund (Dept of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation)


Chief Investigators: Christobel Saunders, Brendan Kennedy, Katharine Giles, Simon Graindorge, Tom Curnow, Sofie de Wolf, Leslie Wise, Andreas Hartmann, Stephen Thompson, Jill Anderson

Title: Compact Wireless Technology for Improved Accuracy During Breast Conserving Surgery

Year / Duration: 2020-2023

Amount: $1M

Source: MTP Connect – BioMedTech Horizons (BMTH) program


Chief Investigators: Sunil Lakhani, Amy Reed, Ben Green, Benhur Amanuel, Cameron Snell, Chris Pyke, Christobel Saunders, Elgene Lim, Euan Walpole, Fares Al-Ejeh, Geoff Lindeman, Gorane Santamaria, Ken O’Byrne, Louisa Gordan, Nicola Waddell, Nicole McCarthy, Peter Simpson, Po-Ling Inglis, Rahul Ladwa, Rik Thompson, Sandra O’Toole, Sherene Loi, Stephen Fox

Title: Precision Oncology for Australian Breast Cancer patients (PRO-BrCa)

Year / Duration: 2020-2023

Amount: $2.8M

Source: MRFF Genomics Grant


Chief Investigator Name: Christobel Saunders

Year / Duration: 2019

Amount: $41,281

Title: Medical and Health Research Infrastructure Fund Round 23

Source: Department of Health Western Australia


Chief Investigators: Christobel Saunders; Nehmat Houssami, Bruce Mann, Andrew Spillane, Patsy Soon, Donna Taylor, Max Bulsara, Michelle Reintals, Colman Taylor, Rachael Moorin

Year / Duration: 2019-2022

Amount: $2,072,217

Title: Evaluation of clinical pathways and patient outcomes for breast MRI in preoperative assessment and staging of breast cancer: Establishing when MRI improves patient outcomes and when it does not.

Source: MRFF Targeted Health System and Community Organisation Research – R1


Principal Investigator: Brendan Kennedy (AIs: Kath Giles, Christobel Saunders)

Year/Duration: 2019-2021

Amount : $3,000,000

Title : Funding for OncoRes Medical Pty Ltd to develop novel intraoperative imaging device. 

Source : Commonwealth Cooperative Research Centre Program(CRC-P) Round 6


Chief Investigator Name: Christobel Saunders

Year / Duration: 2018

Amount: $16,802

Title: Medical and Health Research Infrastructure Fund Round 22

Source: Department of Health Western Australia

Previous positions

Consultant Surgeon, Royal Perth Hospital 2000 -2020
Division Head Surgery, Medical School, The University of Western Australia 2017- 2019
CRC Advisory Committee,Commonwealth Department Industry, Innovation and Science 2016 – 2020
Head Breast Service, Royal Perth Hospital 2016 –2017
QA Surgeon, Breast Screen WA 2002 - 2019
Consultant Surgeon, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital 2002-2011
Consultant General Surgeon, Western Australian Kirkbride Melanoma Advisory Service 2000 - 2020
Associate Professor, The University of Western Australia 2000-2002Senior Lecturer, University College London 1998-2000
Consultant Surgeon, University College London Hospitals,1998-2000
Honorary Consultant Surgeon, St. Luke’s Hospital for the Clergy 1998-2000
Senior Registrar, Greenwich Hospital, London 1997-1998
Senior Registrar, Maidstone Hospital, Kent 1996-1997
Surgical Registrar, St. Thomas’ Hospital, London 1994-1996         
Surgical Lecturer, Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospitals, London 1994-1996
Research Fellow, The Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer Research, London 1991-1994
Surgical Registrar, The Royal Marsden Hospital, London 1991-1994          
Senior House Officer Surgical Rotation, Whipps Cross Hospital, London 1989-1991
Neurosurgical Senior House Officer, The London Hospital 1989
Casualty Officer, St. Thomas’ Hospital, London,1988
Prosector, St. Thomas’ Hospital Medical School 1988
Medical Officer, Achuapa Clinic, Nicaragua 1987
Senior House Officer, Newham General Hospital, London 1987
House Officer, Professorial Surgical Unit, The London Hospital and General Medicine, Newham Hospital 1986-1987

Teaching overview

I have been involved in both undergraduate and postgraduate medical and allied health teaching throughout my career.  This was a large part of my role as Senior Lecturer at University College London.  Since moving to Australia I have been involved with the Clinical Training and Evaluation Centre (CTEC) at UWA and Division of Surgery teaching committees, and teach at all levels of undergraduate and postgraduate medicine and to allied health professions. I have helped develop teaching modules for surgeons (University of Sydney Breast Surgery Masters) and for the Cancer Australia Cancer Learning programme. I am currently editing a new publication on operative surgery from Bailey and Love.

One of my more demanding teaching roles is that of speaking to consumers and the general public.  I have numerous public lecturing commitments e.g. UWA Summer School, for Cancer Council WA, National Breast Cancer Foundation and Breast Cancer Network Australia. This experience is complemented by a number of publications I have produced for the layman (e.g. ‘Breast Cancer – a guide’, the ‘Breast Health Handbook’, the ‘Complete Women’s Health Book’, ‘Breast Cancer – a guide for every woman’ and ‘Breast Cancer:  The Facts’, Oxford University Press); as well as patient information guides and decision making tools, and my involvement with patient and patient-advocacy organisations


My research interests include:

  • Clinical trials (investigator initiated, international and industry sponsored)
  • Development of new technologies (e.g. OncoRes- a commercial spin off developing optical coherence micro-elastography for tumour margin assessment)
  • Familial breast cancer (instrumental in introducing Treatment Focused Genetic Testing for breast cancer)
  • Health outcomes research (including CIC Cancer study of Value Based Healthcare, funded for $5m over 5 years)
  • Population health (e.g. population based pregnancy and breast cancer studies)
  • Psychosocial and supportive care
  • Translational research (clinical collaborator on numerous discovery cancer projects)



Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Research expertise keywords

  • Surgical oncology
  • Clinical trials
  • Breast cancer research
  • Endocrine and exocrine aspects of breast cancer
  • Familial cancers
  • Minimally invasive therapy for cancer
  • Gestational breast cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Psychosocial morbidity associated with breast cancer diagnosis
  • Breast cancer screening
  • Risk factors for breast cancer
  • Emerging treatments in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • Translational (breast cancer) research
  • Health services research


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