The University of Western Australia

UWA Staff Profile

Ipsum Lorem

Christobel Saunders

Professor Christobel Saunders

Deputy Head of School
Surgery, School of

Contact details
School of Surgery
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 Winthrop Professor of Surgical Oncology, academic surgeon, cancer researcher and teacher of surgery at the School of Surgery, The University of Western Australia.

W/Professor Saunders has been closely involved in strategic planning and management of health cancer services in Australia for the last decade as Board member and Advisory Council member of Cancer 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.

W/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. W/Professor Saunders is active in several areas of surgical oncology cancer research, with a particular emphasis on breast cancer.
Key research
•Quality of Life and patient preferences in breast cancer
•Endocrine treatments in breast cancer
•Exogenous and endogenous hormones and breast cancer
•Familial breast cancer
•Clinical trials including minimally invasive diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer
•Translational cancer research
•Cancer services research
1.Scolaro L, McLaughlin RA, Kennedy BF, Saunders CM, Sampson DD 2014, ‘A review of optical coherence tomography in breast cancer’, De Gruyter, doi: 10.1515/plm-2014-0013
2.Vaidya JS, Bulsara M, Wenz F, Tobias JS, Joseph D, Massarut S, Saunders C, Flyger H, Eiermann W, Williams NR, Baum M 2014, ‘Targeted intraoperative radiotherapy (TARGIT) during lumpectomy for breast cancer: a subgroup analysis for predictive factors for local control in the TARGIT-A trial’, submitted
3.Kemp A, Preen DB, Saunders C, Boyle F, Bulsara M, Malacova E, Roughead EE 2014, ‘Early discontinuation of endocrine therapy for breast cancer: who is at risk in clinical practice?’ SpringerPlus, 3:282, doi:10.1186/2193-1801-3-282
4.Kennedy B, McLaughlin R, Kennedy K, Chin L, Curatolo A, Tien A, Latham B, Saunders C, Sampson D, ‘Optical coherence micro-elastography: mechanical-contrast imaging of tissue microstructure’, Biomedical Optics Express, 5:7, pp 2113-2124
5.Corica T, Joseph D, Saunders CM, Bulsara M, Nowak A 2014, ‘Intraoperative radiotherapy for early breast cancer: do health professionals choose convenience or risk? A cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study’, Radiation Oncology, doi:10.1186/1748-717X-9-33
6.Marino J, Saunders CM, Emery LI, Green H, Doherty D & Hickey M 2014, ‘Nature and severity of menopausal symptoms and their impact on quality of life and sexual function in cancer survivors compared with women without a cancer history’, Menopause, doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e3182976f46
7.Pang J, Byrne D, Takano E, Jene N, Petelin L, McKinley J, Poliness C, Saunders CM, Taylor D, Mitchell G, Fox S submitted 30/11/2013, ‘Progesterone receptor is upregulated in mammographically dense areas, and estrogen receptor alpha frequently present in breast stroma of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers - a possible mechanism for hormonal influence on density,’ Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, MS ID 1763347438117074
8.Kemp A, Preen DB, Saunders CM, Boyle F, Bulsara M, Holman CDJ, Malacova E, Roughead EE 2014, ‘Women commencing anastrozole, letrozole or tamoxifen for early breast cancer: the impact of comorbidity and demographics on initial choice,’ PLoS ONE, 9(1): e84835

1.Kennedy K, McLaughlin R, Kennedy B, Tien A, Latham B, Saunders CM, Sampson D 2013, ‘Needle optical coherence elastography for measurement of micro-scale mechanical contrast deep within human breast tissues’, Journal of Biomedical Optics, 18(12), doi:10.1117/1.JBO.18.12.121510
2.Vaidya JS, Wenz F, Bulsara M, Tobias JS, Joseph DJ, Keshtgar M, Flyger H, Massarut S, Alvarado M, Saunders CM, et al 2013, ‘Risk-adapted targeted intraoperative radiotherapy versus whole-breast radiotherapy for breast cancer: 5-year results for local control and overall survival from the TARGIT-A randomised trial’, The Lancet, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61950-9
3.Musiello T, Bornhammar E, Saunders CM 2013, ‘Breast surgeons perceptions and attitudes towards contralateral prophylactic mastectomy,’ ANZ Journal of Surgery, 83(7-8):527-32
4.Emery JD, Walter FM, Gray V, Sinclair C, Howting D, Bulsara M, Saunders CM, et al 2013, ‘Diagnosing cancer in the bush: a mixed-methods study of GP and specialist diagnostic interval in rural Western Australia,’ Family Practice, 30(5):541-550.
5.Fritschi L, Erren T, Glass D, Girschik J, Thomson A, Saunders CM, et al 2013, ‘The association between different night shiftwork factors and breast cancer: a case–control study,’ British Journal of Cancer, 109:2472–2480
6.Keshtgar MR, Williams NR, Bulsara M, Saunders CM, Flyger H, Cardoso JS, et al 2013, ‘Objective assessment of cosmetic outcome after targeted intraoperative radiotherapy in breast cancer: results from a randomised controlled trial,’ Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 140(3):519-25
7.Marino JL, Saunders CM, Emery LI, Green H, Doherty DA, Hickey M 2013, ‘Nature and severity of menopausal symptoms and their impact on quality of life and sexual function in cancer survivors compared with women without a cancer history,’ Menopause, doi 10.1097/GME.0b013e3182976f46
8.Taylor D, Kulawansa ST, McCallum DD, Saunders CM 2013, ‘Peri-implant galactocele following vacuum-assisted core biopsy of the breast: a cautionary tale,’ BMJ Case Reports, doi:10.1136/bcr-2012-007127
9.Emery JD, Walter FM, Gray V, Sinclair C, Howting D, Bulsara M, Saunders CM, et al 2013, ‘Diagnosing cancer in the bush: a mixed-methods study of symptom appraisal and help-seeking behaviour in people with cancer from rural Western Australia,’ Family Practice, 30(3):294-301
10.Cormie P, Pumpa K, Galvão DA, Turner E, Spry N, Saunders CM, et al 2013, ‘Is it safe and efficacious for women with lymphedema secondary to breast cancer to lift heavy weights during exercise: a randomised controlled trial,’ Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 7(3):413-424
11.Hayes SC, Rye S, DiSipio T, Yates P, Bashford J, Pyke C, et al 2013, ‘Exercise for health: a randomized, controlled trial evaluating the impact of a pragmatic, translational exercise intervention on the quality of life, function and treatment-related side effects following breast cancer,’ Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 137(1)175-186
Roles, responsibilities and expertise
•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
Targeting breast cancer recurrence through epithelial mesenchymal plasticity (EMPathy); Thompson E, Goodall A, Saunders CM, Anderson C, Yap A, Street I, Stanley I, Dowling A; NBCF; 2010-2015; $5,000,000
Development of a new surgical guidance tool for breast cancer; McLaughlin R, Saunders CM & Sampson D.; NHMRC Development Grant; 2012-2014; $539,685
A new tool for intra-operative tumour margin assessment; McLaughlin R, Saunders CM, Sampson D & Kennedy B.; NBCF Novel Concept Award; 2012-2014; $200,000
Radio-guided occult lesion localisation using low dose I-125 seeds (ROLLIS) to localise impalpable breast lesions reduces re-excision rate: a multicentre randomised controlled trial; Saunders CM, Taylor D, Bourke A & Westcott E; Government of Western Australia Department of Health, SHRAC Research Translation Project 2012 Round 6; 2012-2014; $190,000
The Kathleen Cunningham Foundation Consortium for Research into Familial Breast Cancer (kConFab); Fox S, Chenevix-Trench G, Kirk J, Mitchell G, Brown M, Campbell I, Lakhani S, Spurdle A, Saunders CM & Suthers G.; NBCF Infrastructure Grant; 2012-2017; $1,250,000
The Inherited Cancer Connect (ICCon)Project; Mitchell G, Ward R, Dawkins H, Meiser B, Macrae F, Hiller J, Kirk J, Scott C, Pachter N, James P, Trainer A, Lindeman P, Suthers G, Campbell I, Saunders CM, McGaughran J, Young M, Fox S.; Cancer Council NSW; 2013–2017; $1,959,761
Can exercise mitigate chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment in breast cancer patients?; Cormie P & Saunders C.M.; CaPCREU Small Grant Scheme; 2013-2014; $19,565
Breast Cancer Research; Saunders CM; Friends of Breast Cancer; 2014; $38,900
Micro-elastography – a new microscopic probe to improve breast cancer surgery; Kennedy B, Sampson D, Saunders CM, Latham B.; NHMRC Project Grant, New Investigator; 2014-2016; $190,962
Does Guideline Adherent Multidisciplinary Treatment and patient compliance improve survival and recurrence for women diagnosed with breast cancer?; Slavova-Azmanova N, Saunders CM,
Johnson CE.; Breast Cancer Research Centre; 2014; $24,848
Does Guideline Adherent Multidisciplinary Treatment and patient compliance improve survival and recurrence for women diagnosed with breast cancer?; Saunders CM, Slavova-Azmanova N, Johnson CE.; Medical Research Foundation (RPH); 2014; $15,500
Epigenetic tailoring of the breast cancer genome: Novel targeted therapies for recalcitrant breast cancer; Blancafort P, Lister R, Swaminatha-Iyer K, Saunders CM (AI), Yeoh G (AI); NBCF Novel Concept; 2014-2016; $200,000
Intraoperative assessment of lymph node metastasis in breast cancer with optical imaging; McLaughlin R, Saunders CM, Sampson D.; Cancer Council WA; 2014; $99,537
MHIRF Round 17; Saunders CM; Department of Health WA Medical Health Research Infrastructure Fund; 2014; $19,411
Establishment of a national tissue bank of matched primary breast tumours and metastases obtained at autopsy for research aimed at reducing mortality from breast cancer; Anderson R, Chua B, Loi S, Lakhani S, Saunders CM, Gill A.; NBCF Infrastructure Grant; 2014-2018; $1,246,875
Healthy living after cancer; Elizabeth Eakin, Vardy, Boyle, Jefford & Koczwara, Reeves Haas, Hayes, Hiller, Mishra, Saunders CM (AI); NHMRC Partnership Grant; 2014-2018; $1,267,110
Novel targeted therapies for aggressive breast cancers; Saunders, CM (AI); NHMRC Project Grant; 2014-2017; $828,632
Is the implementation of a routine screen programme for distress effective in reducing patient distress? A pilot study examining the impact and efficacy of a screening programme intervention for distress on patient outcomes in oncology; Musiello T, Miller L, Johnson C, O'Connor M, Saunders CM, Joske D, Petterson A, Bennett K, Brans S, Li I; WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network; 2014; $20,053
English, Spanish
•Member, National Lead Clinicians Group
•Member, Cancer Australia Advisory Council
•Board Member, Cancer Council Australia
•Board Member, Cancer Council WA
•Board Member, Breast Cancer Network Australia
•Board Member, Deeble Institute
•Committee Member, Excellence in Research for Australia, Australian Research Council
•Executive Committee member, kConFab and Biospecimen and Finance Sub-committees
•Deputy Chair, Surgical Oncology Section, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
•Council Member, Breast Surgeons of Australia and New Zealand (BreastSurgANZ)
•Executive Committee member, Women in Surgery Section, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
•Member, Genetics Advisory Group Breast and Ovarian Cancer Sub-committee, Department of Health WA
•Lead, WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network Research Group, Co-lead, Breast Collaborative and Member, Psychosocial and Primary Care Collaboratives
•Advisory Board Member, AstraZeneca ENHANCE group
•Member Expert Standing Panel, Medical Services Advisory Committee
•Advisory Committee Member, International Skills and Training Institute in Health
•Expert Panel Member, Victorian Cancer Agency
Honours and awards
•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
•Scientific Convenor, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress, 2015
•Panel member, National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant Reviews, 2014
•Panel member, National Lead Clinicians Group Awards for Excellence, 2014
•Reviewer: Australian Research Council, National Health and Medical Research Council, National Breast Cancer Foundation, Cancer Australia, Cure Cancer Australia, Health Research Council of New Zealand, Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development, Blue Skies Research Programme South Africa
•Examiner, multiple PhD and Masters theses, various Australian Universities
•Convenor, RACS ASC Surgical Oncology (2005) and Women in Surgery (2010)
FOR 110323, 111204, SEO 920102
Research profile
Research profile and publications

The University of Western Australia

This Page

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