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We conducted a single-arm phase II study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of radiotherapy combined with 6-thioguanine, procarbazine, dibromodulcitol, lomustine, and vincristine (TPDCV) chemotherapy for treating malignant astrocytoma in children and anaplastic ependymoma in patients of all ages. Between 1984 and 1992, 42 patients who had malignant astrocytomas (glioblastomas multiforme, anaplastic astrocytomas, or mixed anaplastic oligoastrocytomas) were treated with TPDCV chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Of these patients, 40 were younger than 18 years, but 2 were older (22 and 23 years) when treated. Cranial radiation averaged 58 Gy. TPDCV chemotherapy was given for 1 year or until progression. Between 1989 and 1991, 17 patients with malignant ependymoma were treated with TPDCV chemotherapy and craniospinal radiation. Radiation was given at an average dose of 54 Gy to the tumor, 28 Gy to the whole brain, and 31 Gy to the spinal axis. TPDCV chemotherapy was given for 1 year or until tumor progressed. Of the patients with glioblastoma multiforme, 13 of 17 died; the median time to progression was 49 weeks, and median survival was 85 weeks. The four patients surviving at this writing were followed a median 537 weeks (range 364-635 weeks). Of the patients with nonglioblastoma malignant astrocytoma, 14 of 25 died; the median time to progression was 224 weeks. Median survival was not reached in this group. The median follow-up for those surviving was 494 weeks. For the patients with ependymoma, 11 of 17 died with a median time to progression of 141 weeks. The median follow-up for the eight who survive was 469 weeks. Nine patients died with a median survival of 183 weeks. The combination of TPDCV and radiotherapy has activity against childhood anaplastic astrocytoma, glioblastoma multiforme, and anaplastic ependymoma. The results of this study for children with glioblastoma were comparable to results in the literature, while the results for children with anaplastic astrocytoma appeared better than most reports. The combination of TPDCV chemotherapy and radiation therapy for anaplastic ependymomas appears to be active and at least as good as published reports using radiation therapy alone.