Galanin and its receptors, GALR1 and GALR2, are known tumor suppressors and potential therapeutic targets in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Previously, we demonstrated that, in GALR1-expressing HNSCC cells, the addition of galanin suppressed tumor proliferation via upregulation of ERK1/2 and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors, whereas, in GALR2-expressing cells, the addition of galanin not only suppressed proliferation, but also induced apoptosis. In this study, we first transduced HEp-2 and KB cell lines using a recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV)-green fluorescent protein (GFP) vector and confirmed a high GFP expression rate (>90%) in both cell lines at the standard vector dose. Next, we demonstrated that GALR2 expression in the presence of galanin suppressed cell viability to 40–60% after 72 h in both cell lines. Additionally, the annexin V-positive rate and sub-G0/G1 phase population were significantly elevated in HEp-2 cells (mock vs GALR2: 12.3 vs 25.0% (P < 0.01) and 9.1 vs 32.0% (P < 0.05), respectively) after 48 h. These changes were also observed in KB cells, although to a lesser extent. Furthermore, in HEp-2 cells, GALR2-mediated apoptosis was caspase-independent, involving downregulation of ERK1/2, followed by induction of the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 protein, Bim. These results illustrate that transient GALR2 expression in the presence of galanin induces apoptosis via diverse pathways and serves as a platform for suicide gene therapy against HNSCC.