Background: In the quest of a curative radiotherapy treatment for gliomas new delivery modes are being explored. At the Biomedical Beamline of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), a new spatially-fractionated technique, called Minibeam Radiation Therapy (MBRT) is under development. The aim of this work is to compare the effectiveness of MBRT and broad-beam (BB) synchrotron radiation to treat F98 glioma rat cells. A dose escalation study was performed in order to delimit the range of doses where a therapeutic effect could be expected. These results will help in the design and optimization of the forthcoming in vivo studies at the ESRF.Methods: Two hundred thousand F98 cells were seeded per well in 24-well plates, and incubated for 48 hours before being irradiated with spatially fractionated and seamless synchrotron x-rays at several doses. The percentage of each cell population (alive, early apoptotic and dead cells, where either late apoptotic as necrotic cells are included) was assessed by flow cytometry 48 hours after irradiation, whereas the metabolic activity of surviving cells was analyzed on days 3, 4, and 9 post-irradiation by using QBlue test.Results: The endpoint (or threshold dose from which an important enhancement in the effectiveness of both radiation treatments is achieved) obtained by flow cytometry could be established just before 12 Gy in the two irradiation schemes, whilst the endpoints assessed by the QBlue reagent, taking into account the cell recovery, were set around 18 Gy in both cases. In addition, flow cytometric analysis pointed at a larger effectiveness for minibeams, due to the higher proportion of early apoptotic cells.Conclusions: When the valley doses in MBRT equal the dose deposited in the BB scheme, similar cell survival ratio and cell recovery were observed. However, a significant increase in the number of early apoptotic cells were found 48 hours after the minibeam radiation in comparison with the seamless mode. © 2011 Gil et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.