The formation of distant metastases often determines the fate of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The expression of cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) and their ligands of the leukocyte adhesion cascade has been associated with metastatic competence in several malignant entities. In this study, human HNSCC cell lines were analyzed in vitro and in a spontaneous metastatic xenograft model. Immunohistochemical analyses of several CAMs were performed on xenograft tumors and tissue microarrays (TMA) from 453 patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas with full histo-pathological and clinical follow-up data. UTSCC 24A and 24B cells bind to E-selectin in vitro, show E-selectin dependent binding to human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), and express sLeX. All HNSCC cells engrafted into severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice, and UTSCC 24A cells formed sporadically spontaneous lung metastases. The expression of CAMs varied between the cell lines, but a correlation between tumor growth and metastatic potential did not exist. None of the CAMS or their ligands could be identified to be of prognostic relevance in the TMA study. The in vitro results indicate that E-selectin and sLeX are involved in the adhesion of HNSCC cells to endothelium. However, specific prognostic markers chosen from the leukocyte adhesion cascade for HNSCC were not identified.