Diffuse invasion of the brain, an intrinsic property of gliomas, renders these tumours incurable, and is a principal determinant of their spatial and temporal growth. Knowledge of the invasive potential of gliomas is highly desired in order to understand their behaviour in vivo. Comprehensive ex vivo invasion studies including tumours of different histological types and grades are however lacking, mostly because reliable physiological invasion assays have been difficult to establish. Using an organotypic rodent brain slice assay, we evaluated the invasiveness of 42 grade II-IV glioma biopsy specimens, and correlated it with the histological phenotype, the absence or presence of deletions on chromosomes 1p and 19q assessed by fluorescent in situ hybridisation, and proliferation and apoptosis indices assessed by immunocytochemistry. Oligodendroglial tumours with 1p/19q loss were less invasive than astrocytic tumours of similar tumour grade. Correlation analysis of invasiveness cell proliferation and apoptosis further suggested that grade II-III oligodendroglial tumours with 1p/19q loss grow in situ as relatively circumscribed compact masses in contrast to the more infiltrative and more diffuse astrocytomas. Lower invasiveness may be an important characteristic of oligodendroglial tumours, adding to our understanding of their more indolent clinical evolution and responsiveness to therapy.