Primary malignant neoplasms of the nervous system differ from other types of malignancy in several ways. Clinical progression is due to local invasive growth, while metastases outside the skull are rare. The tumors show no sharp delimitation from the surrounding normal tissue. At the edge, an ill-defined area of invasive tumor cells, reacting glial cells and inflammatory cells is present. At the same time the primary brain tumors are biologically heterogeneous. In this review, a short survey of markers for malignancy in primary brain tumors is given, and some properties of importance for invasive behavior, are listed. These include different cellular enzymes, phagocytotic property, locomotive and proliferative characteristics. Studies of primary brain tumors in situ show invasive growth into the surrounding brain tissue, often followed by hemorrhage and necrosis. In addition spread of tumor cells takes place along preexisting intracranial structures. Recently, several systems for the study of brain tumor invasiveness in culture have been elaborated. Both experimental and human gliomas have been tested. The target tissues include organ culture of embryonic chick heart muscle, chorioallantoic membrane, fetal rat brain tissue and reconstructed vessel walls. It has been shown that glioma cells are able to split junctions between normal cells. They destroy and phagocytose the normal cells and penetrate the normal tissue. The use of brain tissue and reaggregated brain cell cultures as target for glioma cells in culture opens the possibility for an elucidation of invasiveness as one of the most important properties of malignancy in the nervous system.