Overexpression of cyclin D2 was studied in 10 human squamous cell carcinoma lines, to establish whether this gene plays a role in tumor progression. We found that those cell lines that overexpressed cyclin D2 (CCND2) had the most invasive in vivo behavior. The invasive ability of the cell lines was determined by evaluating the penetration of carcinoma cells into the tracheal wall in an in vivo assay with de-epithelialized tracheas transplanted into the subcutaneous tissue of nude mice. From five cell lines that exhibited low invasive ability, we selected two that had very little CCND2 expression (SCC9 and SCC15), to evaluate whether CCND2 gene transfer would increase the invasive behavior. After confirming the successful transfer of CCND2 by Northern, Western, and kinase-activity assays, we assessed the in vivo invasive behavior of the CCND2-transfected cells and their respective vector alone–transfected controls. The cell lines containing the transferred CCND2 gene had a significantly higher invasive ability than respective controls. This was accompanied by a moderate increase in gelatinase activity. In addition, the in vitro proliferative abilities, under normal culture conditions, of the parental CCND2-transfected and vector alone–transfected cells were found to be similar, as was the in vivo labeling index of Ki-67 in the tracheal transplants. These results indicated that the overexpression of CCND2 in squamous cell carcinoma lines modulates cell proliferation after induced quiescence and also has a powerful enhancing effect on in vivo aggressive growth behavior. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.