The dedication of Dr George Kannourakis means hundreds of cancer patients can receive treatment close to home.

Story By Genevieve Barlow

Some doctors keep their nice cars for Sunday drives. Not Dr. George Kannourakis. But then the Greek-born former Harvard University researcher is not your average doctor.
George drives his SL55 Mercedes-Benz convertible westwards from the regional city of Ballarat in Victoria to the state’s central west four times a month. It’s a nice machine with enough grunt to navigate the nerve-jangling, dual-lane truck jungle that is Victoria’s Western Highway. George braves these roads to run chemotherapy clinics in the rural cities of Ararat and Stawell on one Wednesday, and in Horsham the next.
His journeys save thousands of other journeys: George provides the only on-site oncology care in the region from Hamilton and Warrnambool in the south of Victoria to Mildura in the north.
A PhD graduate from the University of Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, George headed Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital Cancer Research Unit, commuting one hour between Melbourne and his home in Ballarat, an hour west, for six-and-a-half years.
A teenager with cancer convinced him Ballarat needed its own research centre. George discovered a disused paint shed near the city’s hospitals and set to work. Twelve years later, that centre employs seven cancer researchers, boasts top equipment and holds one of the world’s largest collections of Langerhans cells (white blood cells). What’s impressive is that all of it – the researchers’ wages, the equipment and the running costs – is funded by donations, fundraisers and bequests from people living mostly in central and western Victoria. Backers of the Ballarat Cancer Research Centre come from all walks of life. Earlier this year, the people of cropping and wool-growing region Lake Bolac joined the list, raising a staggering $100,500 for the cause.

This story excerpt is from Issue #61

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2008