Background This laboratory previously analyzed the expression of SPARC in the parental UROtsa cells, their arsenite (As+3) and cadmium (Cd+2)-transformed cell lines, and tumor transplants generated from the transformed cells. It was demonstrated that SPARC expression was downregulated to background levels in Cd+2-and As+3-transformed UROtsa cells and tumor transplants compared to parental cells. In the present study, the transformed cell lines were stably transfected with a SPARC expression vector to determine the effect of SPARC expression on the ability of the cells to form tumors in immune-compromised mice. Methods Real time PCR, western blotting, immunohistochemistry, and immunofluorescence were used to define the expression of SPARC in the As+3-and Cd+2-transformed cell lines, and urospheres isolated from these cell lines, following their stable transfection with an expression vector containing the SPARC open reading frame (ORF). Transplantation of the cultured cells into immune-compromised mice by subcutaneous injection was used to assess the effect of SPARC expression on tumors generated from the above cell lines and urospheres. Results It was shown that the As+3-and Cd+2-transformed UROtsa cells could undergo stable transfection with a SPARC expression vector and that the transfected cells expressed both SPARC mRNA and secreted protein. Tumors formed from these SPARC-transfected cells were shown to have no expression of SPARC. Urospheres isolated from cultures of the SPARC-transfected As+3-and Cd+2-transformed cell lines were shown to have only background expression of SPARC. Urospheres from both the non-transfected and SPARCtransfected cell lines were tumorigenic and thus fit the definition for a population of tumor initiating cells. Conclusions Tumor initiating cells isolated from SPARC-transfected As+3-and Cd+2-transformed cell lines have an inherent mechanism to suppress the expression of SPARC mRNA.