Henry C. Pitot III, MD, PhD, a renowned researcher in the field of carcinogenesis, died June 9, 2021, at the age of 91.
Pitot earned his bachelor’s degree from the Virginia Military Institute, then earned his medical degree and doctoral degree from Tulane University School of Medicine. He conducted postdoctoral research at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Wisconsin, joining the faculty as an assistant professor in 1960. He would remain there for his entire career.
He was the director of the McArdle Laboratory and chair of the Department of Oncology from 1973 to 1991. He also held posts as chair of the Department of Pathology from 1968 to 1971 and acting dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School from 1971 to 1973. He also served as a pathologist at the Veteran’s Hospital. He became a professor emeritus in 1999 but remained an active collaborator.
Pitot’s research focused on the molecular biology of carcinogenesis. He conducted pioneering studies on gene expression in the stages of initiation, promotion, and progression of liver cancer, leading to an improved understanding of multistage carcinogenesis. He also conducted research on precursor lesions that provided important insights on the initiating and promoting activities of environmental chemicals and drugs. Over the course of his career, he authored or coauthored more than 500 scientific papers.
Pitot was revered as a teacher and mentor, supervising more than 100 graduate students and postdoctoral trainees. For almost 30 years, he successfully competed for an American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant for the university, which brought seed money to support promising projects in cancer research.
Pitot became an AACR member in 1961. He served on the AACR Board of Directors from 1969-1972, and was also involved with the AACR’s State Legislative Committee and Women in Cancer Research. He was on the Editorial Board of Cancer Research from 1968-1976 and was featured three times on the cover of the journal. He was active in several other cancer organizations, serving as a member of the Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society, a member and chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board, a member and chair of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Toxicology Program, and a member of the President’s Cancer Panel. He was an honorary member of the Japanese Cancer Association. Among many career awards, Pitot was honored with the Parke-Davis Award for meritorious research in Experimental Pathology, the Distinguished Service Award of the American Cancer Society, the Founder’s Award of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, the Society of Toxicology Distinguished Lifetime Toxicology Scholar Award, and the Gold-Headed Cane Award of the American Society for Investigative Pathology. He also received many honors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Tulane University.
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