3-Aminopyridine-2-carboxaldehyde thiosemicarbazone (3-AP, Triapine) is a novel small molecule inhibitor of ribonucleotide reductase (RR) with clinical signs of activity in pancreatic cancer. Therefore, the Phase 2 Consortium (P2C) initiated a trial (two single stage studies with planned interim analysis) of 3-AP at 96 mg/m(2) intravenously days 1-4 and 15-18 of a 28-day cycle in both chemotherapy-naive and gemcitabine-refractory (GR) patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. The primary endpoint was survival at six months (chemotherapy-naive) and four months (GR). Secondary endpoints were toxicity, response, overall survival, time to progression and mechanistic studies. Fifteen patients were enrolled including one chemotherapy-naïve and 14 GR. The chemotherapy-naïve patient progressed during cycle 1 with grade 3 and 4 toxicities. Of 14 GR patients, seven received two cycles, six received one cycle and one received eight cycles. Progression precluded further treatment in 11 GR patients. Additionally, one died of an ileus in cycle 1 considered related to treatment and two stopped treatment due to toxicity. Five GR patients had grade 4 toxicities possibly related to 3-AP and six GR patients had grade 3 fatigue. Toxicities and lack of meaningful clinical benefit prompted early study closure. Four-month survival in GR patients was 21% (95% CI: 8-58%). Correlative studies confirmed that 3-AP increased the percentage of S-phase buccal mucosal cells, the presence of multidrug resistance gene polymorphisms appeared to predict leukopenia, and baseline pancreatic tumor RR M2 expression was low relative to other tumors treated with 3-AP. In conclusion, this regimen appears inactive against predominantly GR pancreatic cancer. RR M2 protein may not have a critical role in the malignant potential of pancreatic cancer.