The matricellular protein osteopontin (OPN), expressed in various cancer types and elevated in the blood of cancer patients, is thought to have different functions when derived from host versus cancer cells. To assess the effect of host-derived OPN on growth of cancers of epithelial origin, we established a line of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cells, named ONSC, which lacks the OPN gene and develops SCC in syngeneic wild-type (WT) and OPN-null mice. At 8 and/or 10 week after subcutaneous injection of ONSC cells in mice, however, there was a lower tumor incidence in WT mice, suggesting that host-derived OPN is associated with suppression of early growth of extrinsic cancer cells. Histological, immunohistochemical, biochemical and hematological analyses were performed on the tumor microenvironment and blood from tumor-bearing mice during the first week after implantation. Host-derived OPN suppression of extrinsic ONSC cell progression is likely mediated through elicitation of an early innate inflammatory response, through its function as a chemoattractant and/or by enhancing survival of inflammatory cells. Further, consistent with a previous report, the serum levels of host-derived OPN, which are elevated during the early phase of tumor growth in mice implanted with ONSC, appear to reflect an anti-tumor progression effect. Copyright © 2011 UICC.