THE Ballarat Cancer Research Centre has been renamed the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute.
It marks the 20th anniversary of the passing of Fiona, who inspired oncologist Dr George Kannourakis to set up the centre when he treated the 13-year-old for the rare bone cancer Ewing’s Sarcoma.
Dr Kannourakis said the original research laboratory was named after Fiona when she passed away in 1992 and the name change would also avoid potential confusion with the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre when it opens.
“Fiona was the person who got the whole ball started,” Dr Kannourakis said.
Dr Kannourakis said it also showed what an inspirational person Fiona was.
“She was a teenager with a vision who changed a lot of things. It’s an inspirational story about a young person who made a difference in her community,” he said.
Fiona’s mother Gail said she was touched when Dr Kannourakis asked if they could use her daughter’s name.
“I felt really happy for Fi. It was really her passion and her will to see research begin in Ballarat,” Ms Elsey said.
“She realised early on in her treatment that research was an integral part of treatment in cancer and she realised the benefits for people going through treatment.
“Having experienced being one of the first ones to trial a new drug, she could see the benefits it would bring.”
Ms Elsey said Fiona realised she would never see the centre built but she always had its vision.
“She was always a giving child. She always felt empathy and compassion even before her illness and it spilled over into her wanting to see something happen.”
The centre’s rebranding was launched yesterday at Sails on the Lake by Australia’s leading cancer researcher, Professor Don Metcalf.
The centre, which receives no government funding, employs 13 researchers and support staff and conducts clinical research into improved cancer treatments and cures.