The Myc protein and proteins that participate in mitosis represent attractive targets for cancer therapy. However, their potential is presently compromised by the threat of side effects and by a lack of pharmacological inhibitors of Myc. Here we report that a circumscribed exposure to the aurora kinase inhibitor, VX-680, selectively kills cells that overexpress Myc. This synthetic lethal interaction is attributable to inhibition of aurora-B kinase, with consequent disabling of the chromosomal passenger protein complex (CPPC) and ensuing DNA replication in the absence of cell division; executed by sequential apoptosis and autophagy; not reliant on the tumor suppressor protein p53; and effective against mouse models for B-cell and T-cell lymphomas initiated by transgenes of MYC. Our findings cast light on how inhibitors of aurora-B kinase may kill tumor cells, implicate Myc in the induction of a lethal form of autophagy, indicate that expression of Myc be a useful biomarker for sensitivity of tumor cells to inhibition of the CPPC, dramatize the virtue of bimodal killing by a single therapeutic agent, and suggest a therapeutic strategy for killing tumor cells that overexpress Myc while sparing normal cells.