Synthesis of the p53 tumor suppressor and its subsequent activation following DNA damage are critical for its protection against tumorigenesis. We previously discovered an internal ribosome entry site (IRES) at the 5' untranslated region of the p53 mRNA. However, the connection between IRES-mediated p53 translation and p53's tumor suppressive function is unknown. In this study, we identified two p53 IRES trans-acting factors, translational control protein 80 (TCP80), and RNA helicase A (RHA), which positively regulate p53 IRES activity. Overexpression of TCP80 and RHA also leads to increased expression and synthesis of p53. Furthermore, we discovered two breast cancer cell lines that retain wild-type p53 but exhibit defective p53 induction and synthesis following DNA damage. The levels of TCP80 and RHA are extremely low in both cell lines, and expression of both proteins is required to significantly increase the p53 IRES activity in these cells. Moreover, we found cancer cells transfected with a shRNA against TCP80 not only exhibit decreased expression of TCP80 and RHA but also display defective p53 induction and diminished ability to induce senescence following DNA damage. Therefore, our findings reveal a novel mechanism of p53 inactivation that links deregulation of IRES-mediated p53 translation with tumorigenesis.