The authors represent a cooperative group of 15 institutions that examined the feasibility of using metabolic features observed in vivo with 1H-magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy to characterize brain tumors of the glial type. The institutions provided blinded, centralized MR spectroscopy data processing long with independent central review of MR spectroscopy voxel placement, composition and contamination by brain, histopathological typing using current World Health Organization criteria, and clinical data. Proton 1H-MR spectroscopy was performed using a spin-echo technique to obtain spectra from 8-cc voxels in the tumor and when feasible in the contralateral brain. Eighty-six cases were assessable, 41 of which had contralateral brain spectra. Glial tumors had significantly elevated intensities of choline signals, decreased intensities of creatine signals, and decreased intensities of N-acetylaspartate compared to brain. Choline signal intensities were highest in astrocytomas and anaplastic astrocytomas, and creatine signal intensities were lowest in glioblastomas. However, whether expressed relative to brain or as intratumoral ratios, these metabolic characteristics exhibited large variations within each subtype of glial tumor. The resulting overlaps precluded diagnostic accuracy in the distinction of low-and high-grade tumors. Although the extent of contamination of the 1H-MR spectroscopy voxel by brain had a marked effect on metabolite concentrations and ratios, selection of cases with minimal contamination did not reduce these overlaps. Thus, each type and grade of tumor is a metabolically hetero-geneous group. Lactate occurred infrequently and in all grades. Mobile lipids, on the other hand, occurred in 41% of high-grade tumors with higher mean amounts found in glioblastomas. This result, coupled with the recent demonstration that intratumoral mobile lipids correlate with microscopic tumor cell necrosis, leads to the hypothesis that mobile lipids observed in vivo in 1H-MR spectroscopy may correlate independently with prognosis of individual patients.