The anti-cancer activities and toxicities of retinoic acid (RA) and synthetic retinoids are mediated through nuclear RA receptors (RARs) and retinoid X receptors (RXRs) that act as transcription factors. Heteroarotinoids (Hets), which contain a heteroatom in the cyclic ring of an arotinoid structure, exhibit similar anti-cancer activities, but reduced toxicity in vivo, in comparison to parent retinoids and RA. A new class of Flexible Hets (Flex-Hets), which contain 3-atom urea or thiourea linkers, regulate growth and differentiation similar to RA, but do not activate RARs or RXRs. In addition, Flex-Hets induce potent apoptosis in ovarian cancer and in head and neck cancer cell lines through the intrinsic mitochondrial pathway. In this study, 4 cervical cancer cell lines were growth inhibited by micromolar concentrations of Flex-Hets to greater extents than RAR/RXR active retinoids. The most potent Flex-Het (SHetA2) inhibited each cell line of the National Cancer Institute's human tumor cell line panel at micromolar concentrations. Oral administration of Flex-Hets (SHetA2 and SHetA4) inhibited growth of OVCAR-3 ovarian cancer xenografts to similar extents as administration of a RAR/RXR-panagonist (SHet50) and Fenretinide (4-HPR) in vivo. None of these compounds induced evidence of skin, bone or liver toxicity, or increased levels of serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) in the treated mice. Topical application of Flex-Hets did not induce skin irritation in vivo, whereas a RAR/RXR-panagonist (NHet17) and a RARgamma-selective agonist (SHet65) induced similar irritancy as RA. In conclusion, Flex-Hets exhibit improved therapeutic ratios for multiple cancer types over RAR and/or RXR agonists.