Leslie's Story

Man Receives Vaccine Made from His Own Cells to Prevent Return of Brain Tumor

In late 2008, Leslie Robertson knew that something wasn’t right. He suffered from severe headaches, was unsteady on his feet and often became confused while performing normal daily tasks.

The Maine farmer sought medical attention and was diagnosed with a Stage 4 glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor. Surgeons removed as much of the cancerous tumor from his brain as possible, but he was still only given 12 months to live.

Linda Smith, Robertson's significant other, began researching other medical alternatives and eventually began trading emails with Andrew Sloan, MD, Director of the UH Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center.

Dr. Sloan told them about a new clinical trial for a treatment vaccine, which is made from a patient's own cells. The vaccine isolates something called heat shock protein, which is part of the immune system. HSP isolates molecules that don't belong, and alerts the immune system to attack. Theoretically, once the tumor is removed, the vaccine prevents the tumor from returning.

Robertson is only the second UH patient to get the vaccine.