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Shine On! Dr. Kumagai

2012/03/02 08:00 Uncategorized

It is with deepest sadness that we announce the passing of one of the most influential and inspiring members of the Tyler Foundation team.

Dr. Masaaki Kumagai was not only one of Japan’s most prominent pediatric oncologists, but he also provided the impetus for the creation of the Tyler Foundation and supported it closely over the past 6 years.

It was because of Dr. Kumagai’s belief in the mission of the Tyler Foundation and its activities that we were able to launch our first
program, the Shine On! Counseling and Support Program, at the National Center for Child Health and Development in 2006. As a key board member, Dr. Kumagai always provided sage and insightful guidance on the implementation of our programs and on the future direction the Tyler Foundation.

Dr. Kumagai graduated from Keio University School of Medicine in 1982 then became a resident at the National Children’s Medical Center in the Hematology Division. He worked as a research fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the US from 1993-1995, and was most recently the Chief of the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology at the National Center for Child Health and Development from 2008 until his passing. Tyler was very fortunate to have Dr. Kumagai as his doctor from 2003-2005.

We are grateful for the precious moments Dr. Kumagai shared with us and are left with great respect for his achievements. In acknowledgement of Dr. Kumagai’s nation wide clinical study for neuroblastoma, the most common type of solid tumor childhood cancer, the resulting treatment regimen will be called the Kumagai protocol. May he rest in peace.

March 6, 1958 – March 1, 2012

Below are his powerful words from 2006 regarding the launch of the Tyler Foundation.


I’m Masaaki Kumagai of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the National Center for Child Health and Development. Since joining the Center in 1986—then called the National Children’s Hospital–I have examined nearly 1,000 child cancer patients. I also have had the opportunity to engage in child leukemia research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading pediatric treatment and research facility in the United States, for two years starting in 1993. At the same time, I was exposed to the latest clinical science in a country that leads the world in cutting-edge pediatric cancer research.

Though forty years ago children with cancer were considered incurable, enormous progress has been made in the ensuing years and today more than 70% of patients recover. That said, there is still an enormous burden on patients fighting the disease and their families, as patients undergo severe treatment and the severity of the treatment often advances. On the other side of the coin, there are still patients today with highly intractable cancers. It’s lamentable that we doctors lose about 20 % of our patients. Pediatric oncologists are advancing research to find treatments and cures for intractable cancers. At the same time, we are looking for ways to reduce the hardships on patients and their parents in order to make each day a little brighter in their fight against cancer.

The Tyler Foundation was established to commemorate one of our favorite patients, Tyler Ferris. In August of 2003, when Tyler was just shy of one month old, he came down with infant leukemia. In one cubic millimeter of blood, Tyler had a proliferation of 1.5 million leukemia cells–a number that the measuring device practically could not count. .

The initial treatment combined with artificial respiration and blood dialysis in the ICU proved effective – Tyler’s leukemia cells continued falling until they were no longer detected under examination. Later, with a transplant of Tyler’s mother’s bone marrow, our team was very hopeful for Tyler’s recovery. However, nine months after the bone marrow transplant Tyler’s leukemia relapsed. Then, in June of 2005, when he was almost two years old, the light when out in Tyler’s short life.

Tyler and his family, as well as those of us on his medical team, joined forces to beat Tyler’s cancer…. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach our goal. We were, possibly, just a step away from succeeding in our efforts. However, in order to close that gap, more support from individuals and more research are necessary. One of the ideas behind the Tyler Foundation is to provide a little support to the people working to save the lives of children with cancer.

However, the Tyler Foundation was set up to provide much more than just support for research. It promotes programs that work to bring relief and comfort, even joy, to patients and their families. Cancer treatment is tremendously stressful for patients and their families—it can transcend physical and emotional pain…For the patient, it’s the pain of daily medicine regimens and endless examinations and the despair in not being able to go home….For the parents, it’s the anxiety over whether they’ll lose their child, the pain of leaving their child in the hospital alone, and conversely the difficulty of ‘carrying on’ at home while their child is in hospital. The Tyler Foundation was established with the aim of lightening this burden on patients and families and making every day in the hospital a little brighter.

I’d like to conclude my message by sharing with you what I always encounter when working with young cancer patients. These children do not need pity. Of course, they get depressed and angry, but like all children they are also full of life and happiness. Just like the healthy children many of us are raising, these cancer patients laugh and get into trouble. And, it’s because these children entertain us and cheer us up that we doctors and nurses are able to carry on our daily work to make them better.

Tyler, with an almost surprising bonhomie, spent the better part of his life smiling and laughing. It was his smile that really gave my colleagues and I the courage and push to give it our all to his treatment.

Tyler left behind his legacy in the Tyler Foundation…I’d like to ask for your support to give joy and some hope to children with cancer.



  1. A sad loss to the Tyler Foundation

  2. Richard Jähnig says:

    An immense loss but his legacy remains with the positive impact that he has had and will continue to have through the Tyler Foundation