Mourning the death of faculty emeritus Thomas G. Pretlow, II, MD

Thomas G. Pretlow, II, MD, a transformative cancer researcher and a founding member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, recently passed away. His wife, Theresa Pretlow, MD survives Dr. Pretlow. Both are professor emerita of Pathology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Dr. Pretlow joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1983, playing a crucial role as a strong advisor and participant in the early development of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (Case CCC) in 1987. 

“Tom had a unique appreciation of tumor biology and helped establish the very first tumor cell lines in colon cancer, with Jim Willson (the VACO series) and prostate cancer (CWR22). His work laid the wound work for amazing discoveries. ~ Stan Gerson, MD, Dean Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

His impact on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer was transformative. This is best illustrated by his use of human prostate cancer tissues in the discovery of molecular markers of prostate cancer development and progression that had a real impact on early detection, prognosis, and development of targeted therapies for prostate cancer patients.

Tom rushed into the hospital on a late weekend day to conduct a postmortem tumor harvest, honoring the wishes of a patient with familial colon cancer and enabling researchers to posthumously establish the world’s first cell line from an individual with Lynch syndrome ~ Sandy Markowitz, MD

Together with his wife Dr. Theresa Pretlow, they were major contributors to the identification and enumeration of aberrant crypt foci in rodent and human intestine as early precursors of malignant transformation. Employing innovative approaches of histochemistry, they contributed significantly to elucidation of the transformative pathways.

Tom was an exacting pathologist, a stringent experimentalist, and a strong advisor. He was a strong advocate for improved patient care at all levels. ~ Nate Berger, MD, former Case CCC Director

Dr. Pretlow is also recognized as a mentor who inspired many students and young researchers to pursue careers in cancer research.

As a first-year medical student at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Tom invited me to spend a research elective in his laboratory that launched my career as a cancer investigator and oncologist. I reunited with Tom when he nominated me for a faculty position in the newly established Case Cancer Center and latter benefitted greatly as Center Director from Tom’s leadership of the Cancer Center’s tissue procurement resource that supported the translational research focus of Case cancer investigators. Jim Willson, MD, former Case CCC Director and student of Dr. Pretlow

A graduate of Oberlin College and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Dr. Pretlow completed his residency at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and conducted research for the NIH while in the Public Health Service. He was on the faculty of Rutgers Medical School and the University of Alabama, Birmingham before joining the faculty at the CWRU School of Medicine.

Dr. Pretlow’s life will be celebrated at a funeral mass on Saturday, March 9, at 10:30 a.m. St. Dominic Catholic Church, 3450 Norwood Rd., Shaker Hts.