The role of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)9 in lung cancer progression is controversial. MMP9 promotes local tumor progression and distant metastasis in mouse models by enhancing extracellular matrix degradation, releasing VEGF from extracellular matrix and promoting vascular pericyte recruitment. Furthermore, increased plasma MMP9 expression levels in human subjects with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) inversely correlates with survival. In contrast, MMP9 can benefit the host by generating inhibitors of endothelial cell proliferation such as angiostatin and NC1 domains of collagen IV. To better understand the role of host MMP9 on the primary growth and metastatic potential of NSCLC, we performed an orthotopic model of NSLC in integrin alpha1-null mice (a genetic model for increased MMP9). In these mice we observed decreased number, size and vascularization of primary NSCLC tumors when compared to wild type controls. In addition, decreased number and size of NSCLC-derived metastases were evident in the alpha1-null mice. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of MMPs in the alpha1-null mice at the time of tumor cell injection resulted in an increase in the number of both primary and metastatic lung cancer as compared to untreated mice, suggesting that primary growth and metastases of NSCLC are worsened by the early inhibition of MMPs. In conclusion, although MMP9 may potentially promote tumor growth and metastasis, production of MMP-dependent anti-angiogenic factors seems to override these effects and protects the host from NSCL growth and progression.