Franklin died in August 2018 after a battle with a neuroendocrine tumor (NET) on the pancreas, a form of cancer that is the cause of only 7 percent of pancreatic cancer cases; Apple CEO Steve Jobs similarly died following a relapse of the rare disease in 2011.
On the one-year anniversary of Franklin’s death, Detroit’s Women’s Informal Network and the singer’s estate held a benefit to donate money to the Boston-based Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation (NETRF), which established the Aretha Franklin Fund for Neuroendocrine Cancer Research, the Detroit Free Press reports.
“The Aretha Franklin Family is honored to partner with the NETRF to help raise funding for education and research of this devastating disease that takes our loved ones much too soon,” Sabrina Owens, Aretha Franklin’s niece and representative of the family, said in a statement.
“We encourage her friends, fans, and supporters to consider contributing to this cause, until such time as we can eradicate NETs. We believe this is possible.”
“A lot of the work we fund is basic science in the laboratory, learning why these tumors grow and spread,” Elyse Gellerman, chief executive officer of NETRF, told the Detroit Free Press.
“We don’t know all the answers about that. Researchers are trying to understand these tumors at a cellular level and – with some of the treatments available – why some patients respond and others do not.”
Gellerman added that the fund would help raise awareness about the rare disease, “I know the neuroendocrine tumors community was frustrated when the cause of Aretha Franklin’s death wasn’t correctly reported.”
Franklin was reportedly first diagnosed with the disease in 2010 and staved off rumors about her health for years. Franklin’s oncologist Dr. Philip A. Philip told the Free Press, “The time that people have with this disease is measured in years, not in fractions of years or months, as it is with most patients (who have the more common) pancreatic adenocarcinoma.”