Chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer

needle-and-vialThe chemotherapy drugs we mention in this page are used to treat exocrine pancreatic cancer—the most common form of which is pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Approximately 95% of all pancreatic cancers are PDAC.

The choice of chemotherapy you will be offered will depend on your situation. 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).

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 or as a second line therapy for advanced pancreatic cancer.

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.


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.

Nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane®)

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

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Information Product No. PCA0031v1 | Published: 04/01/2013 | Last Updated: 10/11/2017 | Next Review Due: 04/01/2016