We investigated the ability of the histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA) to interact with gemcitabine (GEM) in inducing pancreatic cancer cell death. The combined treatment with TSA and GEM synergistically inhibited growth of four pancreatic adenocarcinoma cell lines and induced apoptosis. This effect was associated with the induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by GEM, increased expression of the pro-apoptotic BIM gene by both TSA and GEM and downregulation of the 5'-nucleotidase UMPH type II gene by TSA. The expression of other genes critical for GEM resistance (nucleoside transporters, deoxycytidine kinase, cytidine deaminase, and ribonucleotide reductase genes) was not affected by TSA. The functional role of ROS in cell growth inhibition by GEM was supported by (i) a significantly reduced GEM-associated growth inhibition by the free radical scavenger N-acetyl-L-cysteine, and (ii) a positive correlation between the basal level of ROS and sensitivity to GEM in 10 pancreatic cancer cell lines. The functional role of both Bim and 5'-nucleotidase UMPH type II in cell growth inhibition by TSA and GEM was assessed by RNA interference assays. In vivo studies on xenografts of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells in nude mice showed that the association of TSA and GEM reduced to 50% the tumour mass and did not cause any apparent form of toxicity, while treatments with TSA or GEM alone were ineffective. In conclusion, the present study demonstrates a potent anti-tumour activity of TSA/GEM combination against pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo, strongly supporting the use of GEM in combination with an HDAC inhibitor for pancreatic cancer therapy.