The CUB domain-containing protein-1 (CDCP1) is a transmembrane molecule that has recently been implicated in cancer progression. In this study we have established a novel mechanism for initiation of CDCP1-mediated signaling in vivo and demonstrated that specific 135→70-kDa processing of cell-surface CDCP1 by extracellular serine proteases is a prerequisite for CDCP1-dependent survival of cancer cells during metastasis. The in vivo cleavage of CDCP1 triggers a survival program involving recruitment of Src and PKCδ, Src-mediated phosphorylation of cell-surface-retained 70-kDa CDCP1, activation of Akt and suppression of PARP1-induced apoptosis. We demonstrate in vivo that phosphorylated Src, PKCδ and Akt all constitute activated elements of a CDCP1-signaling axis during tissue colonization of tumor cells. Preventing in vivo cleavage of CDCP1 with unique anti-CDCP1 antibodies, serine protease inhibitors or genetic modulation of the cleavage site in the CDCP1 molecule completely abrogated survival signaling associated with the 70-kDa CDCP1, and induced PARP1 cleavage and PARP1-mediated apoptosis, ultimately resulting in substantial inhibition of tissue colonization by tumor cells. The lack of CDCP1 cleavage in the lung tissue of plasminogen-knockout mice along with a coordinated reduction in tumor cell survival in a lung retention model, and importantly rescue of both by in vivo supplied plasmin, indicated that plasmin is the crucial serine protease executing in vivo cleavage of cell-surface CDCP1 during early stages of lung colonization. Together, our findings indicate that in vivo blocking of CDCP1 cleavage upstream from CDCP1-induced pro-survival signaling provides a potential mechanism for therapeutic intervention into metastatic disease.