A neutral bidentate ligand 2-(3-methyl-5-phenyl pyrazol-1-yl) benzthiazole (L) has been synthesized by refluxing equimolar proportions of 2-hydrazino benzthiazole and benzoyl acetone in ethanol. The ligand acts in a N[sbnd]N donor fashion and forms stable mononuclear, MoOX3L [L = Ligand, X = Cl (1), Br (2)] and binuclear Mo2O4X2L2 [L = Ligand, X = Cl (3), Br (4)] complexes with molybdenum(V). The ligand and complexes are thoroughly characterized by elemental analyses, IR, UV–Vis spectroscopy, EPR study, magnetic susceptibility, thermogravimetry and cyclic voltammetry. Magnetic moment measurements reveal that the mononuclear complexes are paramagnetic while the binuclear complexes are diamagnetic in nature. EPR studies also confirm the presence of a mononuclear Mo(V) moiety in the complexes. Relevant Density Functional Theory (DFT) calculations have been carried out to determine the structures of the synthesized compounds. The binding mode and mechanism of interaction of the synthesized compounds with bovine serum albumin (BSA) were studied by concentration dependent absorption and fluorescence titration experiments. The ligand and complexes 1–4 are screened for their potential in vitro anticancer activities against three different human cancer cell lines, namely, cervix adenocarcinoma epithelial cells (HeLa), renal carcinoma cells (SK-RC-45) and breast adenocarcinoma cells (MCF-7). The oxomolybdenum(V) complexes are found to exhibit higher anticancer potency towards the cancer cells than the free ligand. Also, structure activity relationship (SAR) studies of this new series of oxomolybdenum(V) complexes indicate that the anticancer activity is to some extent dependent on the electronic effects of the halogen atom coordinated to the molybdenum centre. © 2019 Elsevier Inc.