Craig Thompson, MD, president and CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of how cells survive and replicate. His current research focuses on the role of metabolic pathways in tumorigenesis. In an interview with JCI Editor at Large Ushma Neill, Thompson discusses the evolution of his research focus. He initially studied platelet physiology while working at the Naval Blood Research Laboratory. Thompson then became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator studying the processes that regulate cell death and the mechanisms that shape lymphocyte development and immune homeostasis. After moving to the University of Pennsylvania, Thompson began to focus on the role of cellular metabolism in proliferation and survival when he found that elimination of apoptosis in mice did not completely regulate cellular survival. These processes have since been shown to play a critical role in cancer development and progression.