The ability to transfer exogenous genes to cancer cells has yielded a wealth of information about the neoplastic processes that occur at molecular and cellular levels. Current research focuses on defining the biochemical factors that govern the interplay between cell growth and cell death in gliomas. The identification of tumor suppressor genes has greatly enhanced our understanding of the molecular mechanism of brain tumors. Accomplishing the transition from basic science to clinical practice is a major challenge for the future of brain tumor research. The concept of tumor suppressor genes is examined, with particular emphasis on the functional studies of the role of the p53, p16, Rb, and PTEN/MMAC1 genes in gliomas. Moreover, recent advances linking tumor suppressor genes, apoptosis, and cell-cycle control pathways in brain tumors are reviewed. The ability to detect mutations in tumor suppressor genes plays an important role in cancer diagnosis and prognosis. Perhaps of greatest significance has been the realization that tumor suppressor genes may provide novel targets for development of specific anticancer therapies for brain tumors.