Single-agent sunitinib, an oral small molecule inhibitor of multiple tyrosine kinase receptors, was evaluated for treatment of patients with recurrent glioblastoma (GB) and anaplastic astrocytoma (AA). Fourteen AA and 16 GB patients, all previously treated with surgery, radiotherapy, and temozolomide, were enrolled in a prospective phase II study at either first or second relapse. Patients were treated with daily sunitinib for 4 consecutive weeks, followed by a 2-week break. For AA patients, the most common side effects were fatigue (86 %), diarrhea (43 %), hand-foot syndrome (36 %), neutropenia (36 %), thrombocytopenia (36 %), and nausea (29 %). In the GB cohort, the most common side effects were fatigue (56 %), diarrhea (44 %), neutropenia (31 %), and thrombocytopenia (25 %). Six of 14 (43 %) AA and 5 of 16 (31 %) GB patients experienced grade 3 or greater toxicities. Five patients discontinued study due to drug toxicities. There were no partial or complete responses in either cohort; 8/14 (57 %) AA and 5/16 (31 %) GB patients had stable disease at the first planned assessment. Progression-free survival at 6 months was 21.5 % (AA) and 16.7 % (GB). Median overall survival was 12.1 months (AA) and 12.6 months (GB). These results are comparable to those reported in the literature in patients treated with standard cytotoxic therapies. This is the largest reported trial of sunitinib in recurrent malignant astrocytic gliomas to date, as well as contains the largest AA cohort. Nonetheless, sunitinib did not demonstrate significant anti-glioma activity in patients with recurrent malignant astrocytic gliomas.