Aretha Franklin Estate Backs Fund to Research Rare Form of Cancer That Took Singer’s Life

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Aretha Franklin passed away from a rare form of cancer, and now her estate has backed newly funded research to learn more about the disease, as well as its causes.

Friday, August 16, marked one year since the legendary singer passed away from having a neuroendocrine tumor (NET) on her pancreas, which, according to the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation (NETRF), is not pancreatic cancer as the term is usually understood. Neuroendocrine tumors affect 171,000 people in the U.S. and just 7 percent of those with pancreatic cancer, according to the foundation.

Aretha Franklin’s estate backed a fund to research a rare form of pancreatic cancer. (Photo: Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images)

NETRF, based in Boston, also launched The Aretha Franklin Fund for Neuroendocrine Cancer Research, and a fundraising benefit was held on Friday.

The Detroit’s Women’s Informal Network is also a part of the new research, and it donated $1,500 toward a goal of $300,000 that’s been set for 2020. Those funds will then be used for two years of initial research.

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Franklin was reportedly diagnosed with the disease in 2010, although she was known for keeping her health concerns secret from the public. But in a handwritten will that was located earlier this year, there was a reference to a “mass on the pancreas.”

“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,” said Aretha Franklin’s niece Sabrina Owens, who oversees the estate.

“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,” NETRF’s Chief Executive Officer Elyse Gellerman 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,” she added.

NETRF also said they’ve been pursuing a number of corporate sponsors in the music industry and wished the singer’s condition was properly reported from the beginning.

“I know the neuroendocrine tumors community was frustrated when the cause of Aretha Franklin’s death wasn’t correctly reported,” Gellerman stated.