The sad passing of Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale's beloved daughter Alexandra (Sasha) McHale at the young age of 23 is a chilling reminder that medical research on lupus is underfunded and has never kept pace with diseases of similar devastation and scope.

Lupus is a disease that largely strikes young women in the prime of their lives. It's an unpredictable and misunderstood autoimmune disease that ravages different parts of the body. It is an extremely complex disease and difficult to understand, diagnose and treat.

Those who live with lupus can never tell when symptoms will strike or when new ones will appear. Meanwhile, awareness remains extremely low. A survey commissioned by the Lupus Foundation of America and released earlier this month found that nearly three-fourths of Americans in the 18-to-34 age group, those most at risk for lupus, knew the least about it.

Our hearts go out to Coach McHale and his family.

SANDRA C. RAYMOND, Washington, D.C.

The writer is president and CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America.