Many phenolic acid phenethyl esters possess diverse biological effects including anti-cancer activity. A series of 14 derivatives were synthesized for the evaluation of their cytotoxic effect on oral cancer cells. These derivatives were tested by the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) colorimetric and trypan blue dye exclusion assay on the growth of oral squamous cell carcinoma (SAS), oral epidermoid carcinoma-Meng 1 (OEC-M1), and normal human oral fibroblast (NHOF) cells, respectively. Caffeic acid phenethyl esters, 3a (CAPE), and 3b, 3c, and 3d showed cytotoxic effects on the SAS and OEC-M1 cell lines, but not the NHOF cell line at a 5-100 microM dose range. Flow cytometric analysis showed that 3c caused OEC-M1 cell arrest at G2/M phase. Such differential effects on representative cancer and normal cells suggested these compounds might be useful in oral cancer chemotherapy.