The objective of the current study was to investigate the expression pattern and clinicopathological significance of differentiated embryo-chondrocyte-expressed gene 1 (DEC1) in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In 118 archived NSCLC tissues, the positive rate of DEC1 was reduced in human lung cancer samples (36/118, 30.5 %) compared with adjacent normal lung tissues (106/118, 89.8 %), as measured by immunohistochemical staining. Loss of DEC1 was correlated with poor differentiation (p=0.005) and high p-TNM stage (p=0.002). Consistently, downregulation of DEC1 by siRNA knockdown promoted the growth and colony formation in the A549 lung cancer cell line, and overexpression of DEC1 inhibited the growth and colony formation in the BE1 lung cancer cell line. In addition, a significant negative correlation was found between DEC1 and cyclin D1 (p=0.014) in 118 cases of NSCLC. Knockdown of DEC1 resulted in the upregulation of cyclin D1, and overexpression of DEC1 led to the downregulation of cyclin D1. Together with the observation that DEC1 bound directly to the promoter region of cyclin D1 in A549 cells, these results indicate that loss of DEC1 may promote tumor progression in NSCLC through upregulation of cyclin D1, and DEC1 might serve as a novel therapeutic target of NSCLC.