Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most lethal of the solid tumors and the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in North America. Most patients present with locally advanced or metastatic disease that precludes curative resection. These patients have an extremely poor prognosis. In the absence of effective screening methods, considerable efforts have been made during the past decade to identify better systemic treatments. Unfortunately most trials have not shown a survival advantage for most therapies. In tandem with this increased clinical research, there has also been an expansion of preclinical laboratory investigation. These preclinical studies revealed many of the molecular mechanisms involved in pancreatic cancer development, which has provided insights into why current therapies are ineffective. These new discoveries provide some optimism that new agents inhibiting specific targets will improve outcome and overcome the resistance of pancreatic cancer to most standard treatments. We review the current standards of care for patients with locally advanced and metastatic pancreatic carcinoma and outline some future directions for the development of new treatment strategies.