Angiogenesis is a possible target in the treatment of human gliomas. To evaluate the role of 3 growth factors, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), in the angiogenic cascade, we determined their levels in extracts of 71 gliomas by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The levels of bFGF were only marginally different between gliomas of World Health Organization (WHO) grade II (low grade) and grades III and IV (high grade). In contrast, the mean concentrations of VEGF were 11-fold higher in high-grade tumors and those of HGF/SF 7-fold, respectively. Both were highly significantly correlated with microvessel density (p < 0.001) as determined by immunostaining for factor VIII-related antigen. In addition, VEGF and HGF/SF appeared to be independent predictive parameters for glioma microvessel density as determined by multiple regression analysis. We measured the capacity of all 3 factors to induce endothelial tube formation in a collagen gel. In this assay, bFGF was found to be an essential cofactor with which VEGF as well as HGF/SF were able to synergize independently. According to the concentrations of angiogenic factors, extracts from high-grade tumors were significantly more potent in the tube formation assay than the low-grade extracts (p = 0.02). Adding neutralizing antibodies to bFGF, VEGF and HGF/SF together with the extracts, tube formation was inhibited by up to 98%, 62% and 54%, respectively. Our findings suggest that bFGF is an essential cofactor for angiogenesis in gliomas, but in itself is insufficient as it is present already in the sparsely vascularized low-grade tumors. Upon induction of angiogenesis in high-grade tumors, bFGF may synergize with rising levels of not only VEGF but possibly also with HGF/SF, which appears here to be an independent angiogenic factor.