Ballarat Cancer Research Centre – Helping the fight against cancer

This week’s cause of the week is the Ballarat Cancer Research Centre, hailing all the way from Ballarat Victoria, down under, in Australia!

They are on a mission to advance the understanding and treatment of cancer by making an internationally recognised contribution to cancer research.

Make sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook and keep an eye out for their tweets coming from our twitter accounts for the week.

They are doing some truly remarkable things and we are happy to have them as our cause of the week!

How did the whole idea come about?

Fiona In 1990 when Ballarat teenager Fiona Elsey was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, (a form of bone cancer) she travelled to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital to receive treatment under the care of oncologist Professor George Kannourakis. She was fascinated by the cancer research conducted at the Leukaemia Auxiliary Royal Children’s Hospital (LARCH) cancer research unit by Professor Kannourakis and so she planted a seed for him to consider – could Ballarat sustain a cancer research laboratory?

Fiona, her mother Gail and their family and friends became instrumental in the formation of the fundraising group CICA (Cancer in Children and Adults).
Supported by a generous Ballarat and wider community, CICA raised initial funds to support the research work at the LARCH cancer research unit. Although vivacious teenager Fiona lost her fight for life in October 1991, Professor Kannourakis embraced Fiona’s idea. After many years of negotiations with University of Ballarat and St John of God Hospital, Fiona’s dream was realised. An opportunity arose for Professor Kannourakis to continue his clinical practice in Ballarat in 1996 and, in February 1998, the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Laboratory was officially opened by the then Health Minister, Hon Robert Knowles.
Today, Ballarat has an adequately resourced cancer research facility well poised to undertake internationally competitive cancer research. The Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Laboratory is now housed within the newly named Ballarat Cancer Research Centre (still located within the St John of God Hospital Ballarat Boiler House). The Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Laboratory is the Centre’s main research facility.

Why is this cause close to your heart? Why should other support it?

Cancer touches the lives of one in three people. It seems as though there is no one on the earth who has not been affected in some way by cancer, it is a universally recognised and fought illness. Ballarat Cancer Research Centre is particularly special as wecurrently receive no government funding, and continue to run on the sheer dedication of volunteers and support from the local community.

Do you have any other events or fundraisers that you would like others to know about?

Fiona2 Every February, for the past three years, the BCRC in conjunction with a committed team of volunteers, has run the Cycle Classic.

There are 50km/65/80km/100km road ride options which start and finish on the southern shores of Lake Wendouree. All rides depart Lake Wendouree, with the 100km course incorporating the Australian National Road Championship Course at Mt Buninyong. There is also a 2.5 hour relay ride circumnavigating Lake Wendouree.

At the start/finish area at Lake Wendouree, Ballarat Rotary clubs provide a fantastic family entertainment carnival, with quality food and beverages available.

This year we raised $100,000 for the Centre and 1034 riders took part and 3000 spectators supported the riders. We hope our 2011 event will be even bigger through support from people like you helping to promote it, putting the event on the cycling and sports calendar and BCRC on the map as a nationally recognised cancer research facility.

Also in October this year, we will launch a brand new campaign called Fiona’s Field of Flowers. The medium is a website, by which the user can purchase a virtual flower for someone they know that has been touched by cancer, with all proceeds going back to the research. Upon purchase the user can nominate their flower to a specific person and leave a message if they wish, slowly but surely that special person’s field of flowers will grow.

What advice would you give to others that might like to take on such an amazing endeavor?

Remain passionate no matter what and remember that every little bit helps; no effort or monetary offering is too small it all helps towards the end result.

How has social media helped your organization?

It has allowed us to communicate our message to an internationally diverse audience. As we are located in a regional community, social media has allowed doors to the world to open for us allowing us to more broadly promote the work undertaken at the Centre.

What do you have planned for the future of Ballarat Cancer Research Centre?

Through our new upcoming projects as mentioned above, we hope to increase our profile on a national and international basis, so that people recognise the wonderful work our scientists do. We also hope to increase our relationships with national and international stakeholders in order to achieve the overall goal of unlocking the riddles of cancer.