Radiation therapy is an important treatment for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). However, how to promote radiation sensitivity in HNSCC remains a challenge. This study aimed to investigate the radiosensitizing effects of fenofibrate on HNSCC and explore the underlying mechanisms. HNSCC cell lines CNE-2 and KB were subjected to ionizing radiation (IR), in the presence or absence of fenofibrate treatment. Cell growth and survival, apoptosis and cell cycle were evaluated. In addition, CNE-2 cells were xenografted into nude mice and subjected to IR and/ or fenofibrate treatment. The expression of cyclinB and CDK1 was detected by Western blotting. Our results showed that fenofibrate efficiently radiosensitized HNSCC cells and xenografts in mice, and induced apoptosis and G2/M arrest via reducing the activity of the CDK1/cyclinB1 kinase complex. These data suggest that fenofibrate could be a promising radiosensitizer for HNSCC radiotherapy.