Adenocarcinoma of the pancreas is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States. It affects nearly as many people each year as does the human immunodeficiency virus and has a much worse outcome. This article reviews the progress in treatment of this disease since 1975, outlines the current clinical and research challenges in the field, and suggests a plan of action to address these challenges. The world literature in the field since 1975 was reviewed, and the pancreatic cancer Progress Report Group of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is reviewed and presented. Some progress has been made in understanding and treating pancreatic cancer since 1975. Much remains to be done. The lack of progress in the field can largely be attributed to the lack of importance and subsequent lack of research dollars attributed to it by the NCI. The NCI is addressing this issue by proposing to fund Specialized programs of research excellence grants in pancreatic cancer. In addition, other mechanisms exist within the NCI to allow for additional funding of pancreatic cancer. Using the tremendous progress made in the field of human immunodeficiency virus research as an example, it is hoped that similar improvements can be made in the field of pancreatic cancer if substantial and sustained efforts are made.