Glioblastoma is the commonest primary brain tumor, as well as the deadliest. Malignant gliomas such as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) present some of the greatest challenges in the management of cancer patients worldwide, despite notable recent achievements in oncology. Even with aggressive surgical resections using state-of-the-art preoperative and intraoperative neuroimaging, along with recent advances in radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the prognosis for GBM patients remains dismal: survival after diagnosis is about 1 year. Established prognostic factors are limited, but include age, Karnofsky performance status, mini-mental status examination score, O6-methylguanine methyltransferase promoter methylation and extent of surgery. Standard treatment includes resection of > 95% of the tumor, followed by concurrent chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Nevertheless, GBM research is being conducted worldwide at a remarkable pace, in the laboratory and at the bedside, with some of the more recent promising studies focused on identification of aberrant genetic events and signaling pathways to develop molecular-based targeted therapies, tumor stem cell identification and characterization, modulation of tumor immunological responses and understanding of the rare long-term survivors. With this universally fatal disease, any small breakthrough will have a significant impact on survival and provide hope to the thousands of patients who receive this diagnosis annually. This review describes the epidemiology, clinical presentation, pathology and tumor immunology, with a focus on understanding the molecular biology that underlies the current targeted therapeutics being tested.