Malignant astrogliomas are among the most aggressive, highly vascular and infiltrating tumours bearing a dismal prognosis, mainly due to their resistance to current radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Efforts to identify and target the mechanisms that underlie astroglioma resistance have recently focused on candidate cancer stem cells, their biological properties, interplay with their local microenvironment or ‘niche’ and their role in tumour progression and recurrence. Both paracrine and autocrine regulation of astroglioma cell behaviour by locally produced cytokines such as the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are emerging as key factors that determine astroglioma cell fate. Here, we review these recent rapid advances in astroglioma research, with emphasis on the significance of VEGF in astroglioma stem-like cell biology. Furthermore, we highlight the unique DNA damage checkpoint properties of the CD133-marker-positive astroglioma stem-like cells, discuss their potential involvement in astroglioma radioresistance and consider the implications of this new knowledge for designing combinatorial, more efficient therapeutic strategies.