There is renewed energy in cancer vaccine research, including lung cancer, which affects many of the nation’s railroad workers who have been exposed to asbestos and locomotive diesel exhaust. Specifically, asbestos was heavily used on railroads in steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, brakeshoes, steam generators, railroad boilers, pipe insulation, cabooses, roundhouses, diesel repair facilities and yards, and elsewhere. Railroad workers have been exposed to diesel exhaust riding engines as well as working on or near idling locomotives.

According to the National Cancer Institute (“NCI”), “Cancer vaccines are designed to boost the body’s natural ability to protect itself, through the immune system, from dangers posed by damaged or abnormal cells such as cancer cells.” For instance, The Buffalo News indicated that Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, has developed a cancer vaccine study where human cells are cultured for nine days and then placed back in the person with rapamycin, an immuno-suppressant drug. This drug will prevent human T cells, or cancer-fighting cells, from being depleted too quickly, allowing the T cells to develop antibodies against the presence of the cancerous cells. Thus, according to the NCI, the body will “remember” the antigens from the vaccine and be able to combat actual cancer cells if and when they appear.

This development follows on Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s announcement of this cancer vaccine trial in January 2012, which Doran & Murphy, PLLC discussed here. This particular trial will include only 18 participants (which has already been filled), but the overwhelming interest in the study shows the incredible need for new developments in fighting cancer.

Researchers at the University of Strasbourg in France, in a 2011 study on lung cancer and vaccines, found that those who received both the vaccine and chemotherapy lived almost twice as long as those only receiving chemotherapy. Additionally, 43.2% of the patients who received the vaccine showed that the lung cancer had not advanced and that 41.9% of vaccine patients responded to treatment as compared to 28.4% of chemotherapy only patients.

Therefore, these vaccines are important for all lung cancer and mesothelioma sufferers, especially railroad workers. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (“CDC”) found that over 158,000 people died from lung cancer in the United States. In 2008, the CDC found that over 2,500 people died from mesothelioma in the United States.

If you are a railroad worker who has been diagnosed with cancer, please contact us if you would like more information about a potential claim under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.


Henry L. Davis, Testing a Defense Against Cancer: Roswell Park Will Study Whether a Vaccine Can Trigger an Immune System Response to Cancer, which Could Lead to Targeted Less Toxic Treatments – and Maybe Prevention, The Buffalo News (July 2, 2012 7:57 AM),

Matt McMillen, Vaccine May Help Slow Spread of Lung Cancer: Experimental Vaccine Targets a Protein Linked to Many Cases of Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer, WebMD (Oct. 21, 2011), lung-cancer.