Background: Phortress produces reactive electrophilic metabolites that form DNA adducts only in sensitive tumor cells. The authors converted the 2-phenylbenzothiazole nucleus in phortress to 2-aryl and -heteroaryl benzoxazole derivatives (11 new and 14 resynthesized). All synthesized compounds were studied for antitumor activity in various cancer cells. Materials & methods: Cytotoxicity, cell morphology, flow cytometry and cell-cycle analyses of compounds were performed and more active derivatives were tested in the MCF-7 cell line. Conclusion: Methyl 2-(thiophen-2-yl)benzo[d]oxazole-6-carboxylate (BK89) has a higher effect than fluorouracil to induce apoptotic cell death (apoptosis value of 49.44%). Cell-cycle analysis shows that the compounds BK89 and methyl 2-(furan-2-yl)benzo[d]oxazole-6-carboxylate (BK82) can be used as potential cell-cycle blockers by arresting MCF-7 cells in G0/G1 phase at rates of 63% and 85%, respectively.