Clinical evidence suggests that gemcitabine (Gem) plus oxaliplatin (Ox) is superior to gemcitabine alone in advanced pancreatic carcinoma. The addition of radiation to gemcitabine improves response and is a standard treatment for locally advanced disease. We investigated the effect of oxaliplatin on gemcitabine-based chemoradiation by determining whether gemcitabine and oxaliplatin produced synergistic cytotoxicity using median effect analysis and radiosensitization using clonogenic survival assays. We analyzed the effects of gemcitabine and oxaliplatin on cell cycle distribution by DNA content and on radiation-induced DNA damage repair by phosphorylated H2AX (gamma-H2AX). Gemcitabine and oxaliplatin produced schedule-dependent synergistic cytotoxicity in BxPC-3 and Panc-1 cells (combination indices: 0.76 +/- 0.05, 0.61 +/- 0.11). In BxPC-3 cells, oxaliplatin did not affect gemcitabine-mediated radiosensitization (Gem 1.99 +/- 0.27; Gem + Ox 2.38 +/- 0.30). In Panc-1 cells, oxaliplatin significantly enhanced gemcitabine-mediated radiosensitization (Gem 1.31 +/- 0.05; Gem + Ox 2.90 +/- 0.31). Radiosensitization by gemcitabine was accompanied by early S-phase arrest and induction/persistence of gamma-H2AX protein, which were unaltered by oxaliplatin. Addition of oxaliplatin to gemcitabine produces radiosensitization equal to or greater than gemcitabine alone, supporting our clinical investigation of oxaliplatin with gemcitabine-radiation in pancreatic cancer aimed at improving systemic disease control while maintaining local tumor radiosensitization.