Central nervous system malignancies, particularly glioblastoma multiforme, pose significant problems for the development of novel therapeutics. In the absence of advances with standard surgical and chemotherapeutic approaches, the utilisation of genetically engineered viruses, both as direct oncolytic agents as well as for the delivery of foreign proteins, represents a significant advance in the experimental approach to management of patients with these incurable tumours. Among other viruses, HSV offers an opportunity to directly influence the replication of tumour cells within the central nervous system. Because of its propensity to replicate in neuronal tissue as well as its large coding capacity, it provides an experimental model for the development of novel therapeutics. The status of these experimental approaches will be summarised in this review. Copyright (C) 2000 John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.