We consider spherically symmetric space-times in GR under the unconventional assumptions that the spherical radius r is either a constant or has a null gradient in the (t, x) subspace orthogonal to the symmetry spheres (i.e.,(∂r)2 = 0). It is shown that solutions to the Einstein equations with contain an extra (fourth) spatial or temporal Killing vector and thus satisfy the Birkhoff theorem under an additional physically motivated condition that the tangential pressure is functionally related to the energy density. This leads to solutions that directly generalize the Bertotti-Robinson, Nariai and Plebanski-Hacyan solutions. Under similar conditions, solutions with (∂r)2 = 0 but r ≠ const, supported by an anisotropic fluid, contain a null Killing vector, which again indicates a Birkhoff-like behavior. Similar space-times supported by pure radiation (in particular, a massless radiative scalar field) contain a null Killing vector without additional assumptions, which leads to one more extension of the Birkhoff theorem. Exact radial wave solutions have been found (i) with an anisotropic fluid and (ii) with a gas of radially directed cosmic strings (or a 'string cloud') combined with pure radiation. Furthermore, it is shown that a perfect fluid with isotropic pressure and a massive or self-interacting scalar field cannot be sources of gravitational fields with a null but nonzero gradient of r. © 2016 IOP Publishing Ltd.