A hallmark of targeted cancer therapies is selective toxicity among cancer cell lines. We evaluated results from a viability screen of over 200,000 small molecules to identify two chemical series, oxalamides and benzothiazoles, that were selectively toxic to the same four of 12 human lung cancer cell lines at low nanomolar concentrations. Sensitive cell lines expressed cytochrome P450 (CYP) 4F11, which metabolized the compounds into irreversible stearoyl CoA desaturase (SCD) inhibitors. SCD is recognized as a promising biological target in cancer and metabolic disease. However, SCD is essential to sebocytes, and accordingly SCD inhibitors cause skin toxicity. Mouse sebocytes were unable to activate the benzothiazoles or oxalamides into SCD inhibitors, providing a therapeutic window for inhibiting SCD in vivo. We thus offer a strategy to target SCD in cancer by taking advantage of high CYP expression in a subset of tumors. These discoveries offer an opportunity to target SCD in either liver or tumors that express CYP4F11.