MKT-077, a cationic rhodacyanine dye analogue has been under preclinical cancer therapeutical trials because of its selective toxicity to cancer cells. Its cellular targets and mechanism of action remain poorly understood. Here we report that MKT-077 binds to an hsp70 family member, mortalin (mot-2), and abrogates its interactions with the tumor suppressor protein, p53. In cancer cells, but not in normal cells, MKT-077 induced release of wild-type p53 from cytoplasmically sequestered p53-mot-2 complexes and rescued its transcriptional activation function. Thus, MKT-077 may be particularly useful for therapy of cancers with wild-type p53.