Chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer

The choice of chemotherapy you will be offered will depend on your tumour and your general health.

Names of chemotherapy drugs

Chemotherapy drugs usually have two names; a general name, but also may have one or more brand names. The general name is the chemical name of the drug, for example paracetamol. The brand name is the one given by the company/ manufacturer of the
drug for example Panadol®. Below the general names are stated first, in brackets are the brand names.

The chemotherapy drugs sometimes used to treat pancreatic cancer are:

Gemcitabine (Gemzar®)

Used alone or sometimes in combination with another chemotherapy drug such as fluorouracil, capecitabine or nab-paclitaxel (see below) for advanced pancreatic cancer and after surgery to remove a tumour (adjuvant therapy).

read more about Gemcitabine

Fluorouracil (5-FU)

Used alone and generally delivered as a prolonged infusion, often over days as an adjuvant therapy (after surgery) or as a sensitiser for chemo-radiotherapy (to make it more effective). It may also be given as a second line therapy for advanced pancreatic cancer not responding to treatment.

read more about fluorouracil

Capecitabine (Xeloda®)

An oral form (taken by tablet) of 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU). It is sometimes given along with gemcitabine (known as GemCap) or on its own as a radiotherapy sensitiser (to make it more effective).

read more about gemcap


This is a combination of 4 different agents (folinic acid [leucovorin], fluorouracil, irinotecan and oxaliplatin) and is used to treat advanced pancreatic cancer and occasionally before surgery to remove a tumour. It can cause more side effects than having individual chemotherapy drugs therefore is usually only given to very fit patients.

read more about folfirinox

Nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane®)

Nab-paclitaxel has EU/UK approval for use in combination with gemcitabine for advanced pancreatic cancer.

read more about abraxane

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Information Product № PCA0031v1 Published 03/10/2019
Last Updated 16/03/2022 Next Review Due 02/09/2022