We report a cisplatin and irinotecan combination in patients with biopsy-proven advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Patients were selected from a specialist centre and required good performance status (KPS>70%), measurable disease on CT scan, and biochemical and haematological parameters within normal limits. Based on a two-stage phase II design, we aimed to treat 22 patients initially. The study was stopped because of the death of the 19th patient during the first treatment cycle, with neutropenic sepsis and multiorgan failure. A total of 89 treatments were administered to 17 patients. Serious grade 3/4 toxicities were haematological (neutropenia) 6%, diarrhoea 6%, nausea 7% and vomiting 6%. Using the clinical benefit response (CBR) criteria, no patients had an overall CBR. For responses confirmed by CT examination, there was one partial response (5%), three stable diseases lasting greater than 6 weeks (16%), with an overall 22% with disease control (PR+SD). The median progression-free and overall survival was 3.1 months (95% CI: 1.3-3.7) and 5.0 (95% CI: 3.9-10.1) months, respectively. Although this synergistic combination has improved the response rates and survival of other solid tumours, we recommend caution when using this combination in the palliation of advanced pancreatic cancer, because of unexpected toxicity.