Human malignant gliomas are among the most malignant and most intensely vascularized solid tumors. Angiostatin, an internal fragment of plasminogen, was recently discovered as an endogenous inhibitor of tumor-related angiogenesis by selective inhibition of endothelial cell growth. Using xenograft transplants of rat and primary human glioma cells in immunodeficient mice we investigated the effects of systemic administration of angiostatin purified from human plasma on tumor growth. The rat C6 and 9L glioma and the human U87 glioma cell lines implanted either s.c. or intracranially in Swiss nude mice responded to angiostatin in a dose- dependent fashion with growth inhibition to 11% of controls (P < 0.01), without detectable signs of toxicity. The inhibition of treated tumors was accompanied by a marked reduction of vascularity to 38% of controls (P < 0.01) in the presence of an up to 6-fold increased apoptotic index (P < 0.01), consistent with the hypothesis that angiostatin acts tumoristatic by inhibiting tumor-induced endothelial cell proliferation. Expression analysis of growth factors in angiostatin-treated tumors revealed an up to 3-fold decrease in vascular endothelial growth factor-mRNA and an up to 4-fold increase in basic fibroblast growth factor-mRNA, as compared with untreated controls in rat gliomas (P < 0.01). This suggests that inhibition of the tumorigenic phenotype may be mediated in part by a downregulation of vascular endothelial growth factor expression within the tumor. Our data demonstrate that systemic administration of angiostatin efficiently suppresses malignant glioma growth in vivo. The tumoristatic activity against intracranial tumors independent of the blood brain barrier suggests that targeting the vascular compartment may offer novel therapeutic strategies against malignant gliomas.