Our aim was to identify conditions which would permit the development of spontaneous metastasis of a human tumor in nude mice in a rapid and predictable manner and to explore ways to quantitate metastasis. Using a human squamous carcinoma–HEp3–we determined that invasiveness and metastasis were influenced by the host. HEp3 cells grew very rapidly and without a significant lag period in Balb/c and NIH(S)-II nude mice kept in aseptic conditions; a much longer lag period was observed in NIH-Swiss mice kept in conventional conditions. The HEp3 tumor displayed a highly invasive behavior in N-NIH(S)-II mice, in which it invaded the body wall, gaining access to the peritoneal cavity. Microinvasion was noted in all strains of mice inoculated with HEp3 cells. To prolong survival of the mice until metastases became evident, primary tumors were excised when they weighed 1–2 gm. N-NIH(S)-II and Balb/c nude mice, maintained in germ-free conditions, were most receptive to the development of metastases–lung metastases developed in 80% of these mice. Over 60% of all metastases were present within 4 weeks following the removal of the primary. Only 26% of tumor bearing NIH-Swiss developed lung metastases. Lung metastases were observed in some mice in the absence of local microinvasion, local tumor recurrence, and regardless of the presence of lymph node involvement. They were also noted in mice from which primary tumors were not excised. We compared three methods of lung metastasis detection: histology, detection of tumor cells in the cultures of lung minces, and the measurement of the levels of human urokinase-type plasminogen activator directly in the lysates of lungs. The detection of tumor cells in cultures of lung minces appeared to be the most sensitive of these methods and the determination of enzyme in lung lysates seemed to hold most promise for a quantitative approach. These data indicate that, the type of tumor, as well as the genetic background and the maintenance conditions of the host, have to be carefully selected to ensure the successful outcome of the particular tumor-host interaction being studied. Adherence to these guidelines allowed us, in the case of the HEp3 tumor, to develop a rapid, predictable, and efficient model in which to study factors affecting metastasis of this human tumor.