Inhibition of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor Flk-1 has been shown to prevent invasion of experimental squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). To directly investigate the role of VEGF in tumor invasion, we stably transfected human SCC-13 cells, which are characterized by a noninvasive phenotype in vivo, with expression vectors containing murine VEGF(164) in sense (SCC/VEGF+) or antisense (SCC/VEGF-) orientation or with vector alone (SCC/vec). SCC/vec cells formed slowly growing, well-differentiated tumors with well-defined borders between tumor and stroma, after intradermal or subcutaneous injection. In contrast, SCC/VEGF+ tumors were characterized by rapid tumor growth, with small cell groups and single cells invading into the surrounding tissue, and by admixture of blood vessels and tumor cells in areas of tumor invasion. We detected an increase in tumor vessel density and size in VEGF-overexpressing tumors, resulting in a more than fourfold increase in total vascular areas. In contrast, SCC/VEGF- clones formed noninvasive, sharply circumscribed tumors with reduced vascular density. These findings demonstrate that selective VEGF overexpression was sufficient to induce tumor invasiveness, and they provide further evidence for an active role of the tumor stroma in cancer progression.