John L. Trotter, In Memoriam

John L. Trotter, MD
John L. Trotter, MD
circa 2000

The multiple sclerosis clinic and neuroimmunology research laboratories at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital were founded by John Lee Trotter, MD in 1978. The clinic was re-named as the John L. Trotter MS Center to celebrate Trotter’s role after he died unexpectedly on July 12, 2001 at age 58. Trotter was one of the first neuroimmunologists in the world, having trained in both neurology and immunology. He was dedicated to the care of MS patients and research on the disease to improve its treatment. To this end, he ran a busy research laboratory, as well as cared for about half the MS patients in St. Louis at the time of his death.

Trotter was the first person to discover than an autoantibody could be associated with cancer, so-called paraneoplastic central nervous system syndromes. The antibody he identified in 1976 in a woman with malignant lymphoma is called “Anti-Tr” in his honor. He also studied the immunologic effects of corticosteroid treatment in MS. He was one of the first to identify the role of cytokines in the pathogenesis of MS. For many years, he ran the clinical spinal fluid immunology lab for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. During that time, he described isoelectric focusing as a more sensitive test for detecting oligoclonal bands in spinal fluid of MS patients.

Trotter was loved by his many patients, his colleagues, his trainees, and his staff. He was repeatedly chosen by his peers as one of the “Best Doctors in America.” He has been missed greatly since his untimely death.