On August 10, 2010, nationally known cancer researcher and clinician Craig B. Thompson was named the new President and Chief Executive Officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center effective November 2, 2010. His appointment concludes a search that began in January 2010. He succeeds Harold Varmus, now Director of the National Cancer Institute.
“My professional life has been dedicated to combining research in understanding cancer as a disease with my clinical role as a medical oncologist,” said Dr. Thompson. “Memorial Sloan Kettering occupies a unique position in both cancer research and cancer therapy, and I am delighted at the prospect of working with like-minded peers. There is nothing better than to be surrounded by people who are committed, talented, and engaged.”
Dr. Thompson, 57, has served since 2006 as Director of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania and Associate Vice President for Cancer Services of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
“Craig Thompson is an exemplary physician-scientist, educator, and academic leader,” said Douglas A. Warner III, Chairman of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Boards of Overseers and Managers. “He brings to his new role significant contributions to the understanding of the biology of cancer, a strong and committed appreciation for the needs of patients with cancer, and superb executive skills. We are fortunate to have him as we seek to maintain and enhance the accomplishments of Memorial Sloan Kettering and move ambitiously into the future.”
As director of the Abramson Cancer Center, Dr. Thompson — a board-certified internist and medical oncologist with extensive research experience in cancer, immunology, and translational medicine — oversaw the work of several hundred cancer researchers as well as more than 300 full-time physicians and faculty across the University of Pennsylvania Health System involved in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. During his tenure, his accomplishments included the opening of a new multidisciplinary cancer outpatient treatment facility; the development of the first proton therapy center in the Mid-Atlantic region; and the expansion of Abramson’s translational research effort.
“We are at a time when transformative developments in biomedical research are greatly expanding opportunities to understand disease and to improve human health,” Dr. Thompson said. “The mandate for all of us here at Memorial Sloan Kettering is to take the gains of the past 25 years to provide more-effective and safer treatments for patients; to define strategies to help people reduce their risks of developing cancers they might be genetically predisposed to develop; and, ultimately, to prevent the disease from occurring at all.”
“I want us to realize the full clinical potential of all the extraordinary research that goes on here,” Dr. Thompson elaborated. “We need to continue to strengthen the bridges between our basic scientists and our clinicians — to bring these communities closer together — so that observations made at the bedside inform the kind of research we do, and research discoveries made in the laboratory are adapted into therapies that can be delivered to patients.”
Dr. Thompson’s current research focuses on the role that metabolic changes play in the origin and progression of cancer. He has also done pioneering research on the genes that control programmed cell death and on how the misregulation of such genes can contribute to cancer. In earlier work, he contributed to the development of innovative treatments for autoimmune diseases and leukemia. In addition, while at the Abramson Cancer Center, he began a collaboration with Memorial Sloan Kettering oncologist Ross L. Levine, a member of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, which will continue as Dr. Thompson takes up his new position.
Dr. Thompson will have a laboratory in the Zuckerman Research Center, to be headed by his wife, Tullia Lindsten. Dr. Lindsten, who has an MD/PhD and also headed Dr. Thompson’s laboratory in Philadelphia, is an accomplished researcher in her own right and will have an Memorial Sloan Kettering faculty appointment.
“I could not be more enthusiastic about this new role and new challenge,” Dr. Thompson concluded. “I look forward to building on Memorial Sloan Kettering’s achievements and tradition of excellence and to working with my colleagues in making progress in controlling and ultimately curing cancer.”
On a personal note, he said that he and his wife are anticipating their move to New York with excitement and are eager to participate in the cultural life of the city — going to museums, the theater, and concerts. However this will not be the first time he has been a resident. “My father was a career Coast Guard officer,” Dr. Thompson explained. “During the years I was in medical school at the University of Pennsylvania my parents lived in a seven-bedroom house on Governor’s Island because my dad ran the base there. I’d try to come up on weekends and often brought friends. Because we had to make the last ferry on Friday night there was always a race through the Holland Tunnel to get to the terminal in time — otherwise we’d have to sit around until the ferry started up again at six the next morning. The years on Governor’s Island were great fun, but it’ll be good to be able to go out at night and not have to worry about getting home!”
Dr. Thompson received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and completed his residency at Harvard’s Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, two of the most prestigious honors a physician or scientist can receive.