Abstract Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) has been suggested to be involved in the carcinogenesis of some types of tumours by autocrine or paracrine mechanisms. We examined GM-CSF/GM-CSF receptor (GM-CSFR) gene expression in 20 human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) xenografts. The stimulatory effects of GM-CSF were examined using GM-CSF transgenic severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice (GM-Tg-SCID), which produce abundant human GM-CSF. A NSCLC xenograft (LC11-JCK), expressed GM-CSFR but not GM-CSF, and showed more rapid growth in GM-Tg-SCID than non-GM-CSF transgenic SCID mice (non-Tg-SCID). GM-CSF gene expression was detected in 48 of 90 (53%) primary NSCLC human specimens and GM-CSFR gene expression was detected in 42 specimens (47%). GM-CSF expression was detected in 13 of 30 squamous cell carcinoma specimens (43%) and GM-CSFR expression was detected in 10 specimens (33%). Patients with squamous cell carcinoma coexpressing GM-CSF and GM-CSFR showed significantly poorer prognosis than those expressing neither GM-CSF nor GM-CSFR ( P<0.05, Cox–Mantel test). These results suggest that GM-CSF can have a stimulatory effect on some NSCLC.