Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, is pushing to expand federally financed research into the disease lupus, which affects 2 million Americans.

He introduced a bill to allow increasing lupus research funds for the National Institute of Health next year to $45 million from the present $33 million.Also, the bill would authorize $40 million in grants to state and local governments for essential services to low-income people suffering lupus and their families.

"Lupus is not a well-known disease, nor is it well understood," Bennett said. "Increased funds for research will benefit the estimated 2 million Americans who have been diagnosed."

He added, "Many lupus patients suffer debilitating pain and fatigue, often making it difficult if not impossible to carry on normal everyday activities, including the demands of a job. Thousands of these debilitating cases end needlessly in death each year."

Lupus is a disease that attacks and weakens the immune system. Because its symptoms are sporadic and similar to those of other illnesses, it is difficult to diagnose. But if found and treated properly, the majority of lupus cases can be controlled.

Bennett noted that more Americans have lupus than AIDS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, sickle-cell anemia or cystic fibrosis.