The function of the endogenous angiogenesis inhibitor thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1) in epithelial tumor development has remained controversial. We studied the in vitro growth characteristics and the in vivo tumor xenograft growth of the human squamous cell carcinoma cell lines A431 and SCC-13, stably transfected to overexpress human TSP-1. Overexpression of TSP-1 inhibited tumor growth of A431 xenotransplants, and completely abolished tumor formation by SCC-13 cells. TSP-1 overexpressing A431 tumors were characterized by extensive areas of necrosis and by decreased tumor vessel number and size. The effects of TSP-1 on tumor cell growth were indirect since tumor cell proliferation rates in vivo and in vitro, anchorage-dependent and -independent growth in vitro, and susceptibility to induction of apoptosis by serum withdrawal were unchanged in TSP-1 overexpressing tumor cells. However, TSP-1 overexpression up-regulated the TSP-1 receptor CD36, leading to enhanced adhesion of A431 cells to TSP-1. These findings establish TSP-1 as a potent inhibitor of angiogenesis and tumor growth in carcinomas of the skin.