Christobel Saunders

Professor, MB BS Lond., FRCS, FRACS

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

    6009 Perth


  • Source: Scopus
  • Calculated using citation counts from Scopus for publications in the UWA Profiles and Research Repository
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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 >20 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 Saunders is closely involved in strategic planning and management of cancer services and research in Australia as President of BreastSurgANZ, board member of the ANZBCTG, past Council/Board member of Cancer Australia and NBOCC, past Deputy Chair of the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) research advisory committee, past member of the National Lead Clinicians Group, has served on the Board of Cancer Council WA (President 2009-2013) for more than a decade, and the Breast Cancer Network Australia, is a grant review panel member for NHMRC, was author of WA Health Cancer Services Framework, first Acting Director of WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network and set up the current Cancer Taskforce for the WA DoH, and does voluntary work in cancer policy in the developing world. She currently has been appointed to the Advisory Panel for the Federal Department of Industry and Sciences Cooperative Research Centres.

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); The Patron’s Award for achievement in breast cancer research from the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) 2010; The Vice Chancellor’s Incentive Award for High Quality Research, (UWA) 2010; Highly Cited Researchers and Authors Award, (UWA) 2012; Western Australia’s Department of Commerce Innovator of the Year Award - Emerging Innovation Category - Microscope-in-a-needle project, 2014; The Vice-Chancellor’s Award in Impact and Innovation for Microscope-in-a-needle project (UWA) 2014 and the Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Award (UWA) 2015 in recognition and acknowledgement for an outstanding contribution to research and Scholarship in the category of Medical and Health Sciences.

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. She has an outstanding funding track record as a Chief Investigator, having attracted a career total of nearly $26 million in over 50 grants awarded in Australia since 2001 ($17 million in the past 5 years) of which $8.6 million was awarded through the NHMRC. Christobel has published over 200 scientific papers in refereed journals, three books and 16 book chapters.

Roles and responsibilities

Head of Division of Surgery, UWA Medical School 2017 -
Consultant Surgeon,Fiona Stanley 2015 -
Consultant Surgeon, Royal Perth Hospitals 2000 -
Consultant Surgeon, St John of God Hospital Subiaco 2012-
Consultant General Surgeon, Western Australian Melanoma Advisory Service 2000 -
Professor Surgical Oncology, The University of Western Australia, November 2002 -
Division Head Surgery Medical School, The University of Western Australia 2017-
Director Breast Cancer Research, St John of God Hospital Subiaco 2015 -
QA Surgeon, Breast Screen WA Screening and Assessment Service, 2002 -
Director Cancer and Palliative Care Research and Evaluation Unit, University of Western Australia, 2008
CRC Advisory CommitteeDepartment Industry, Innovation and Science 2016 -

Funding overview

Year / Duration: 2018-2019 Amount: $39,920 Title: A phase II feasibility study comparing primary care vs. hospital-based follow up after curative surgery for patients with non-small cell lung cancer Source: Sir Charles Gairdner and Osborne Park Health Care Group Research Advisory Committee (RAC) 2018-19/004
Year / Duration: 2018 Amount: The Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, will provide provisional funding for this trial, pending submission of a grant application to the Australia and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) in the 2018 round. Trial Registration ACTRN12618000463279 Title: The LOLIPOP- Pilot Study (Long term Outcomes after Lidocaine Infusions for Post-Operative Pain) Source: St John of God Hospital Subiaco
Year / Duration: 2018 Amount: $65,436 Title: BreastScreen WA Breast Density Survey Source: Department of Health Western Australia
Year / Duration: 2018 Amount: $15,000 Title: Circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) as a biomarker of disease status and treatment response in breast cancer patients Source: The Ladybird Foundation
Year / Duration: 2018 Amount: $10,455 Title: Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) in Colorectal Cancer Surgery Source: WA Department of Health
Year / Duration: 2018 Amount: $18,029 Title: Continuous Improvement in Care - Cancer: Identification of WA Specific Data Variables for Colorectal Cancer Source: WA Department of Health
Year/ Duration: 2018-2020 Amount: $592,636 Title: Measuring breast density in younger women to inform primary prevention and early detection of breast cancer  Source: Cancer Australia Priority Driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme APP1147677
Year/ Duration: 2018-2022 Amount: $2,589,049 Title: BRCA-P: An international randomised phase III study evaluating the RANK ligand inhibitor denosumab for the prevention of breast cancer in BRCA-1 mutation carriers  Source: NHMRC Project Grant APP1140715
Year / Duration: 2017 Amount: $100,000 Title: Micro-elastography: A new surgical tool to reduce the number of re-excision breast cancer surgeries Source: Cancer Council WA APP1120985
Year / Duration: 2017-2022 Amount: $5,000,000 Title: Unique single-cell molecular atlas of hundreds of cancer samples donated by patients Source: Cancer Research Trust and co-funding partners
Year/ Duration: 2017-2019 Amount: $763,152 Title: Characterization of a new subtype of aggressive breast cancer Source: NHMRC Project Grant APP1130212
Year / Duration: 2017-2018 Amount: $200,000 Title: Modulating gene expression in breast cancer by targeted epigenome engineering of G-quadruplex DNA Source: NBCF Innovator Grant 2017-2018

Previous positions

• Head Breast Service, Royal Perth Hospital, 2016 –2017
• Consultant Surgeon, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, 2002-2011
• Associate Professor, 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
• 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
• Research Fellow, The Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer Research, 1991-1994
• Surgical Registrar, The Royal Marsden Hospital, 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

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 have been involved in both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching throughout my career, as well as teaching non-medical personnel.  This has been on a more formal basis since finishing Higher Surgical Training and was a large part of my role as Senior Lecturer at University College London.  In Australia I am involved with the Clinical Training and Evaluation Centre (CTEC) at UWA and Division of Surgery teaching committees, and regularly teach at all levels of undergraduate, postgraduate and to allied health professions.

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 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’, 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.

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).


• 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)



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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