Christobel Saunders

Professor, MB BS Lond., FRCS, FRACS

  • The University of Western Australia (M581), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


  • 4156 Citations
  • 33 h-Index
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Personal profile


FRACS (2003), Royal Australian College Surgeons; FRCS (Gen. Surg) (1998), Royal College Surgeons; FRCS (1991),Royal College Surgeons of England; MB BS (Distinction) (1986), University of London.

Christobel Saunders is Professor of Surgical Oncology, academic surgeon, cancer researcher and teacher of surgery at the Division of Surgery, Medical School, The University of Western Australia.

Professor Saunders has been closely involved in strategic planning and management of health cancer services in Australia for the last decade as Board member of Breast Cancer Network Australia, past President of Cancer Council WA (2009-2013), and locally as author of the WA Health Cancer Services Framework and first A/Director State-wide Cancer and Palliative Care Network.

Professor Saunders has substantially contributed to many clinical aspects of breast cancer research including clinical trials of new treatments, psychosocial, translational and health services research. Professor Saunders is active in several areas of surgical oncology cancer research, with a particular emphasis on breast cancer.

Roles and responsibilities

• Head of Division of Surgery, UWA Medical School 2017 -

* Consultant Surgeon, Fiona Stanley Hospital, February 2015 –
• Director Breast Cancer Research, St John of God Hospital Subiaco, June 2014 –
• Consultant Surgeon, St John of God Hospital Subiaco, January 2011 –
• Director Cancer and Palliative Care Research and Evaluation Unit, The University of Western Australia, October 2008 –
• Deputy Head, School of Surgery, The University of Western Australia, April 2007 –
• Winthrop Professor Surgical Oncology, The University of Western Australia, November 2002 –
• Head of Unit General Surgery, School of Surgery, The University of Western Australia, November 2002 –
• Consultant Surgeon, Royal Perth Hospital, May 2000 –
• QA Surgeon, BreastScreen WA Screening and Assessment Service, 2002 –
• Consultant General Surgeon, Western Australian Melanoma Advisory Service, 2000 –

Funding overview

• Medical and Health Research Infrastructure Fund Round 19, Department of Health Western Australia, 2016, $18,374
• High resolution optical imaging for intraoperative assessment of breast cancer margins, WA Department of Health Merit Awards, 2016-2017, Near Miss Funding $75,000
• Translating evidence into practice: Optimising and facilitating prevention and screening in women with a strong family history of breast cancer, NBCF, 2016-2018, $516,690
• Mechanical modulation of bone metastases in advanced breast cancer patients: Can targeted exercise suppress osteolytic tumour progression?, NBCF Pilot Study Grant, 2016, $184,300
• POSNOC (Positive Sentinel Node). A randomised trial of adjuvant therapy alone versus adjuvant therapy plus Clearance or axillary radiotherapy, NHMRC Project Grant, 2015-2019, $1,210,724
• Lifepool is a powerful and unique resource that will facilitate the development and validation of new ideas for treatment and early detection of breast cancer, NBCF Infrastructure Grant, 2015-2019, $250,000
• Micro-palpation: translating touch to the micro-scale to guide breast-conserving surgery, NBCF Innovator Grant, 2015-2016, $200,000
• A novel method to measure breast density in young women, NBCF Pilot Study Grant, 2015-2016, $198,931
• Targeting CSF-1 induced macrophage migration to prevent tumour metastasis, CCWA, 2015-2016, $100,000
• Exercise medicine for all cancer survivors: implementation and evaluation of a national intervention program, CCWA, 2015-2016, $100,000
• NBCF repository of primary tumours and metastases from breast cancer patients BROCADE (BReast Origin Cancer tissue donated After DEath), NBCF Infrastructure Grant, 2014-2018, $1,745,270
• Healthy living after cancer, NHMRC, Partnership, 2014-2018, $1,267,110
• Epigenetic reprogramming of malignant breast cancers, NHMRC Project Grant, 2014-2017, $828,632
• Epigenetic tailoring of the breast cancer genome: Novel targeted therapies for recalcitrant breast cancer, NBCF Novel Concept Award, 2014-2016, $200,000
• Micro-elastography – a new microscopic probe to improve breast cancer surgery, NHMRC Project Grant (New Investigator), 2014-2016, $190,962

Previous positions

• Consultant Surgeon, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, 2002-2011
• Associate Professor, University Department of Surgery, Royal Perth Hospital and The University of Western Australia, 2000-2002
• Senior Lecturer, University College London, 1998-2000
• Honorary Consultant Surgeon, University College London Hospitals, 1998-2000
• Consultant Surgeon, St. Luke’s Hospital for the Clergy, 1998-2000
• I spent a month attached to the department of Reconstructive Surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles and with plastic surgeons in Orange County, California, October 1998
• Senior Registrar, Greenwich Hospital, London, 1996-1997
• Senior Registrar, Maidstone Hospital, Kent, 1996-1997
• Surgical Registrar, St. Thomas’ Hospital, 1994-1996
• Surgical Lecturer, Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospitals, 1994-1996
• Clinical Research Fellow, The Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer Research, 1991-1994
• Surgical Registrar and Research Fellow, The Royal Marsden Hospital, 1991-1994
• Senior House Officer Surgical Rotation, Whipps Cross Hospital, London, 1989-1991
• Neurosurgical SHO, 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

Current projects

• Chair Breast Cancer Clinical Practice Guidelines Steering Committee, Cancer Australia
• Evaluator, Australian Research Council
• NHMRC/NBOCC Clinical Practice Guidelines, development of
• Protocol Surgeon, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons ASERNIP project (assessment of safety and efficacy of new surgical procedures)
• Reviewer, Blue Skies Research Programme South Africa
• Reviewer, Cure Cancer Australia Foundation
• Reviewer, National Breast Cancer Foundation
• Reviewer, Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw)
• Reviewer, The National Health and Medical Research Council

Teaching overview

Current Undergraduate
As a member of the School of Surgery Teaching Committee and previously Year 4 Curriculum Committee, I have an active input into the administration of undergraduate teaching, as an Examiner and teacher as well as PPD mentor. My prior as Clinical Sub-Dean for Year 4 (2007-2012) allowed me to increase my commitment to teaching in both an academic and pastoral role. I have recently helped the students set up The UWA Student Surgical Society and mentor many young aspiring surgeons. This work is extended via the Women in Surgery Section of the College of Surgeons, of which I am a founding executive member(

Current Postgraduate
I was program director of the first Australasian Breast Reconstruction Course held at CTEC in June 2001 and the first Australasian Sentinel Lymph Node Dissection and Completion Lymphadenectomy Course in November 2003, repeated in May 2004, and Co-convener of the first Australian Breast MRI course in May 2008.
I have recently completed supervision of two successful PhD students (one distinction) and continue to supervise three more PhD students and three Masters students. I teach regularly on the Graduate Diploma in Surgical Anatomy, the Graduate Diploma in Women’s Health, organise the Annual multidisciplinary Registrars Breast Day and take part in educational videos for the Virtual Medical Centre and Career Australia. I am an examiner for the RACS. I teach on numerous educational meetings for health professionals both in WA and nationally and am on the local surgical registrars teaching group (WARTS).
I started a Masters in Surgery programme at UWA, which I direct, and set up a mentoring programme (SWIM) for female surgical trainees in WA. I am designated University mentor to a number of colleagues at UWA and have participated in training in this.
I was a member of the EPICC team developing a web-based teaching resource in cancer (

One of my more demanding ‘teaching’ roles is that of speaking to consumers and the general public. I have numerous public lecturing commitments such as the UWA Summer School and for the Cancer Council WA, National Breast Cancer Foundation and the 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’ and the ‘Complete Women’s Health Book’, ‘Breast Cancer – a guide for every woman.’ and ‘Breast Cancer: The Facts’, as well as patient information guides and decision making tools) and my involvement with patient and patient -advocate organisations.


• Clinical trials; including ANZBCTG, international (e.g. POSITIVE, TARGIT) and local (e.g. ROLLIS)
• Development of new technologies (e.g. Microscope-in-a-needle)
• Familial breast cancer
• Health services research
• Population health (e.g. pregnancy and breast cancer, adherence to endocrine therapies)
• Psychosocial and supportive care
• Translational research (e.g. the EMPathy Network)




  • 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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Projects 2002 2022

Research Output 2001 2018

Acceptability and utility of, and preference for wearable activity trackers amongst non-metropolitan cancer survivors

Hardcastle, S. J., Galliott, M., Lynch, B. M., Nguyen, N. H., Cohen, P. A., Mohan, G. R., Johansen, N. J. & Saunders, C., Dec 2018, In : PLoS One. 13, 12, p. e0210039

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
1 Citations

Arm morbidity of axillary dissection with sentinel node biopsy versus delayed axillary dissection

Ballal, H., Hunt, C., Bharat, C., Murray, K., Kamyab, R. & Saunders, C., Sep 2018, In : ANZ Journal of Surgery. 88, 9, p. 917-921

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Lymph Node Excision

A Systematic Review of Women's Knowledge of Screening Mammography

Seaman, K., Dzidic, P. L., Castell, E., Saunders, C. & Breen, L. J., 1 Dec 2018, In : BREAST. 42, p. 81-93 13 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Informed Consent
Early Detection of Cancer

Clinical feasibility of optical coherence micro-elastography for imaging tumor margins in breast-conserving surgery

Allen, W. M., Foo, K. Y., Zilkens, R., Kennedy, K. M., Fang, Q., Chin, L., Dessauvagie, B. F., Latham, B., Saunders, C. M. & Kennedy, B. F., 1 Dec 2018, In : Biomedical Optics Express. 9, 12, p. 6331-6349 19 p., #342473.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Elasticity Imaging Techniques
Segmental Mastectomy

Cosmetic outcome as rated by patients, doctors, nurses and BCCT.core software assessed over 5 years in a subset of patients in the TARGIT-A Trial

Corica, T., Nowak, A. K., Saunders, C. M., Bulsara, M. K., Taylor, M., Williams, N. R., Keshtgar, M., Joseph, D. J. & Vaidya, J. S., 13 Apr 2018, In : Radiation Oncology. 13, 1, 68.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access