In addition to saving the banks, shoring up the cratered real estate market, and capping greenhouse gas emissions, President Barack Obama had another ambitious goal for the stimulus package in his speech  to Congress last night: curing cancer. Presumably, that's a reference to the $10 billion headed for the National Institutes of Health.
Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.
As lofty a goal as it is, curing cancer in the next few decades is a far cry from the ambitions of Andrew von Eschenbach, who directed  the National Cancer Institute until 2005. He often cited his plan to "eliminate death and suffering" from cancer by 2015, later moving the goal up to 2010—a plan generally considered unrealistic  (and unlikely to be met in the next 10 months).