Gliomas are terrifying primary brain tumors for which patient outlook remains bleak. Recent research provides novel insights into the unique biology of gliomas. For example, these tumors exhibit an unexpected pluripotency that enables them to grow their own vasculature. They have an unusual ability to navigate tortuous extracellular pathways as they invade, and they use neurotransmitters to inflict damage and create room for growth. Here, we review studies that illustrate the importance of considering interactions of gliomas with their native brain environment. Such studies suggest that gliomas constitute a neurodegenerative disease caused by the malignant growth of brain support cells. The chosen examples illustrate how targeted research into the biology of gliomas is yielding new and much needed therapeutic approaches to this challenging nervous system disease.
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