The University of Western Australia

UWA Staff Profile

Ipsum Lorem

Christobel Saunders

Professor Christobel Saunders

Head of School/Professor

Contact details
The University of Western Australia (M507)
35 Stirling Highway
+61 8 6151 1122

Human Ethics

Contact details
Human Ethics
The University of Western Australia (M507)
35 Stirling Highway
+61 8 6151 1108
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 School of Surgery, 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.
Key research
•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)
1.Vaidya JS, Bulsara M, Wenz F, Coombs N, Singer J, Ebbs S, Massarut S, Saunders C et al, ‘Reduced mortality with partial breast irradiation for early breast cancer – a meta-analysis of randomised trials’, International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, 2016 May, doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2016.05.008
2.Rai R, Glass DC, Heyworth JS, Saunders C et al, ‘Occupational exposures to engine exhausts and other PAHs and breast cancer risk: A population-based case-control study’, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2016 Apr 20, doi: 10.1002/ajim.22592
3.Ebert MA, Dhal B, Prunster J, McLaren S, Zeps N, House M, Reniers B, Verhaegen F, Corica T, Saunders C, Joseph DJ, ‘Theoretical versus Ex Vivo assessment of radiation damage repair: An investigation in normal breast tissue’, Radiation Research, 2016 Mar 29, doi: 10.1667/RR14235.1
4.Bourke AG, Taylor DB, Westcott E, Hobbs M, Saunders C, ‘Iodine-125 seeds to guide removal of impalpable breast lesions: radio-guided occult lesion localisation – a pilot study’, Australia and New Zealand Journal of Surgery, 2016 Mar 16, doi: 10.1111/ans.13460
5.James J, Jackson L, Saunders C, ‘Florid pustular dermatitis of breast: A case report on a unusual complication from acellular dermal matrix use’, International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, 2016 Mar 4, 22:59-61, doi: 10.1016/j.ijscr.2016.02.040
6.Do Nascimento VC, Rajan R, Redfern A, Saunders C, ‘Inflammatory breast cancer: A decade of experience’, Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2016 Feb 22, doi: 10.1111/ajco.12459
7.Zdenkowski N, Forbes JF, Boyle FM, Kannourakis G, Gill PG, Bayliss E, Saunders C et al, ‘Observation versus late reintroduction of letrozole as adjuvant endocrine therapy for hormone receptor positive breast cancer (ANZ0501 LATER): An open-label randomised controlled trial’, Annals of Oncology, 2016 Feb 9, pii: mdw055
8.Kemp-Casey A, Roughead EE, Saunders C et al, ‘Breast cancer recurrence following active treatment: determining its incidence in the NSW population’, Public Health Research and Practice, 2016 Jan 28, 26(1), doi: 10.17061/phrp2611607

9.Eakin EG, Hayes SC, Haas MR, Reeves MM, Vardy JL, Boyle F, Hiller JE, Mishra GD, Goode AD, Jefford M, Koczwara B, Saunders CM et al, ‘Healthy living after cancer: A dissemination and implementation study evaluating a telephone-delivered healthy lifestyle program for cancer survivors’, BMC Cancer, 2015 Dec 21, 15(1):992, doi: 10.1186/s12885-015-2003-5
10.Abeywardhana D, Nascimento VC, Dissanayake D, Taylor D, Metcalf C, Saunders C et al, ‘Review of ultrasound appearance in inflammatory breast cancer: A pictorial essay’, Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology, 2015 Dec 2, 59(6):1-5, doi 10.1111/1754-9485.12418
11.Hugo HJ, Saunders C et al, ‘New insights on COX-2 in chronic inflammation driving breast cancer growth and metastasis’, Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia, 2015 Dec, 20(3-4):109-19
12.Singh V, Saunders C et al, ‘Menopausal symptoms after breast cancer therapy’, Encyclopaedia of Cancer, 2015 Nov 20, doi 10.1007/978-3-642-27841-9 3,635-2)
13.Gasch C, Plummer PN, Jovanovic L, McInnes LM, Wescott D, Saunders CM et al, ‘Heterogeneity of miR-10b expression in circulating tumour cells’, Scientific Reports, 2015 Nov 2, Vol 5, doi: 10.1038/srep15980
14.Kennedy KM, Chin L, McLaughlin RA, Latham B, Saunders CM et al, ‘Quantitative micro-elastography: Imaging of tissue elasticity using compression optical coherence elastography’, Nature, 2015 Oct 27, Vol 5, p. 15538, doi 10.1038/srep15538
15.Glass DC, Heyworth J, Thomson AK, Peters S, Saunders C et al, ‘Occupational exposure to solvents and risk of breast cancer,’ American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2015 Sep, 58(9):915-22, doi 10.1002/ajim.22478
16.Kennedy BF, McLaughlin RA, Kennedy KM, Chin LX, Wijesinghe P, Curatolo A, Tien A, Ronald M, Latham B, Saunders CM et al, ‘Investigation of optical coherence microelastography as a method to visualise cancers in human breast tissue’, Cancer Research, 2015 Aug 15, 75(16):3236-45, doi 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-3694
17.Taylor DB, Bourke AG, Westcott E, Burrage J, Latham B, Riley P, Ballal H, Kamyab R, Frost F, Dissanayake D, Landman J, Phillips M, Saunders C, ‘Radioguided occult lesion localisation using iodine-125 seeds (ROLLIS) for removal of impalpable breast lesions: First Australian experience’, Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology, 2015 Aug, 59(4):411-20, doi 10.1111/1754-9485.12302
18.Ballal H, Taylor DB, Bourke AG, Latham B, Saunders CM, ‘Predictors of re-excision in wire-guided wide local excision for early breast cancer: a Western Australian multi-centre experience’, ANZ Journal of Surgery, 2015 Jul-Aug, 85(7-8):540-5, doi: 10.1111/ans.13067
19.Schenberg T, Mitchell G, Taylor D, Saunders C, ‘MRI screening for breast cancer in women at high risk; is the Australian breast MRI screening access program addressing the needs of women at high risk of breast cancer?’, Journal of Medical Radiation Sciences, 2015 Jul 22, doi: 10.1002/jmrs.116
20.Vaidya JS, Bulsara M, Wenz F, Joseph D, Saunders C et al, ‘Pride, prejudice, or science: Attitudes towards the results of the TARGIT-A trial of targeted intraoperative radiation therapy for breast cancer’, International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics, 2015 Jul 1, 92(3):491-7, doi 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2015.03.022
21.Si S, Boyle T, Heyworth T, Glass D, Saunders CM et al, ‘Lifetime physical activity and risk of breast cancer in pre- and post-menopausal women’, Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 2015 Jul, 152(2):449-62, doi 10.1007/s10549-015-3489-x
22.Pang JM, Byrne DJ, Takano EA, Jene N, Petelin L, McKinley J, Poliness C, Saunders C et al, ‘Breast tissue composition and immunophenotype and its relationship with mammographic density in women at high risk of breast cancer,’ Plos One, 2015 Jun 25; 10(6), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128861
23.Lizama N, Rogers P, Thomson A, Slevin T, Fritschi L, Saunders C et al, ‘Women’s beliefs about breast cancer causation in a breast cancer case-control study’, Psycho-Oncology, 2015 Jun 18, doi 10.1002/pon.3869
24.Lizama N, Johnson CE, Ghosh M, Garg N, Emery JD, Saunders C, ‘Keeping primary care "in the loop": General practitioners want better communication with specialists and hospitals when caring for people diagnosed with cancer’, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2015 Jun, 11(2):152-9, doi: 10.1111/ajco.12327
25.Pagani O, Ruggeri M, Manunta S, Saunders C et al, ‘Pregnancy after breast cancer: Are young patients willing to participate in clinical studies?’ Breast, 2015 Jun, 24(3):201-7, doi: 10.1016/j.breast.2015.01.005
26.Douma KF, Meiser B, Kirk J, Mitchell G, Saunders C et al, ‘Health professionals' evaluation of delivering treatment-focused genetic testing to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer’, Familial Cancer, 2015 Jun, 14(2):265-72, doi: 10.1007/s10689-014-9770-z
27.Saunders CM et al, ‘Explainer: Why do some breast cancers come back?’, The Conversation, April 27
28.Johnson CE, Saunders CM et al, ‘Randomised controlled trial of shared care for patients with cancer involving general practitioners and cancer specialists’, Journal of Oncology Practice, 2015 Mar 10, pii: JOP.2014.001569
29.Saunders CM et al, ‘Expanding the indications for MRI in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer: what is best practice?’, Journal of Medical Radiation Sciences, 2015 Mar, 62(1):47-53, doi 10.1002/jmrs.95
30.McInnes LM, Jacobson N, Redfern A, Dowling A, Thompson EW, Saunders CM, ‘Clinical implications of circulating tumour cells of breast cancer patients: role of epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity’, Frontiers in Oncology, 2015 Feb 26; 5:42, doi 10.3389/fonc.2015.00042
31.Slavova-Azmanova NS, Johnson CE, Platell C, Bydder S, Saunders CM, ‘Peer review of cancer multidisciplinary teams: is it acceptable in Australia?’, The Medical Journal of Australia, 2015 Feb 16, 202(3):144-7
32.Vagenas D, DiSipio T, Battistutta D, Demark-Wahnefried W, Rye S, Bashford J, Pyke C, Saunders C et al, ‘Weight and weight change following breast cancer: evidence from a prospective, population-based, breast cancer cohort study’, BMC Cancer, 2015 Jan 31, Vol 15, doi 10.1186/s12885-015-1026-2
33.Dessauvagie BF, Frost FA, Sterrett GF, Hardie M, Parry J, Latham B, Westcott E, Rourke T, Burrage J, Bourke A, Taylor D, Kamyab R, Saunders C, ‘Handling of radioactive seed localisation breast specimens in the histopathology laboratory. The Western Australian Experience’, Pathology, 2015 Jan, 47(1):21-6, doi 10.1097/PAT.0000000000000197
Roles, responsibilities and expertise
•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 received
•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
English, Spanish
Honours and awards
•Innovation Challenge Winner, The Australian in association with Shell, 2015
•UWA Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Award, The University of Western Australia, 2015
•UWA Vice Chancellor’s Inaugural Research Award in Impact and Innovation (Microscope-in-a-needle) 2014
•WA Innovator of the Year Award - Emerging Innovation Category (Microscope-in-a-needle) 2014
•ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology (Finalist), 2013 and 2012
•Aspire Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Convention Travel Grant, 2012
•Highly Cited Researchers and Authors , The University of Western Australia, 2012 and 2010
•Highlights 2011 photo competition (with Moran, J), The Lancet, 2011
•Certificate of Appreciation, Kuwait Breast Diseases and Oncoplastic Reconstructive Surgery Conference, 2010
•Vice Chancellor’s Incentive Award for High Quality Research, The University of Western Australia, 2010
•Certificate of Outstanding Service, The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, 2010
•Pink Ribbon Award for Breast Cancer Research, National Breast Cancer Foundation, 2010
•Royal Society of Medicine Travelling Scholarship, 1987
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 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.
Current external positions
•Assistant Editor, Cell, Tissue, Organ (Special Edition)
•Reviewer, ANZ Journal of Surgery
•Reviewer, Austral-Asian Journal of Cancer
•Surgical Editor, Cochrane Breast Cancer Review Group

•Chair Breast Cancer Clinical Practice Guidelines Steering Committee, Cancer Australia
•Evaluator, Australian Research Council
•Member, MBS Review Taskforce - Oncology Services
•Member, WA Expert Advisory Cancer Group
•NHMRC/NBOCC Clinical Practice Guidelines, development of
•Panel member, National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant Reviews
•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

Boards, committees and panels
•Advisory Board Member, Encore Programme, YMCA
•Board Member, Cancer Council WA
•Board Member, Breast Cancer Network Australia
•Board Member, Deeble Institute
•Chair, Cancer Care Taskforce
•Council Member, Breast Surgeons of Australia and New Zealand (BreastSurgANZ)
•Deputy Chair, Surgical Oncology Section, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
•Executive Committee member, kConFab
•Executive Committee member, Women in Surgery Section, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
•Expert Standing Panel Member, Medical Services Advisory Committee
•Lead, WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network Research Group, Co-lead Breast Collaborative and Member Psychosocial, Primary Care and Survivorship Collaboratives
•Member, Australia and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group
•Member, State Quality Committee, Breast Screen WA
•Member, WA Expert Advisory Cancer Group
•Member, Cancer Stream of Excellence, WA Health Translation Network
•Proxy Member, BreastScreen Australia Clinical Advisory Committee
•Management Committee member, EMPathy Breast Cancer Network
•Management Committee member, Translational Cancer Pathology Laboratory UWA
•Steering Group member, Cancer and Palliative Care Research Evaluation Unit

•Examiner, multiple PhD and Masters theses, various Australian Universities
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
FOR 110323, 111204, SEO 920102
Research profile
Research profile and publications

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Last updated:
Tuesday, 3 November, 2015 2:39 PM