Retinoids and vitamin D are important factors that regulate cellular growth and differentiation. An additive growth-inhibitory effect of retinoids and vitamin D analogues has been demonstrated for human myeloma, leukaemic and breast cancer cells. We set out to study the effects of the vitamin D analogue EB1089 and the retinoids all-trans- and 9-cis-retinoic acid on the human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cell lines Capan 1 and Capan 2 and the undifferentiated pancreatic carcinoma cell line Hs766T. The cell lines investigated expressed vitamin D receptor, retinoic acid receptor (RAR)-alpha and gamma as determined by polymerase chain reaction after reverse transcription. RAR-beta was expressed only in Hs766T cells. Addition of all-trans-retinoic acid increased the amount of RAR-alpha mRNA in the three cell lines and induced RAR-beta mRNA in Capan 1 and Capan 2 cells. All-trans-retinoic acid at a concentration of 10 nM inhibited the growth of Capan 1 and Capan 2 cells by 40% relative to controls. 9-cis-Retinoic acid was less effective. Neither all-trans-retinoic acid nor 9-cis-retinoic acid affected the growth of Hs766T cells. EB1089, if added alone to the cells, did not significantly inhibit growth. However, the combination of 1 nM EB1089 with 10 nM all-trans-retinoic acid exerted a growth-inhibitory effect of 90% in Capan 1 cells and of 70% in Capan 2 cells. Our data suggest that vitamin D analogues together with retinoids inhibit the growth of human pancreatic cancer cells. However, in vivo studies are necessary to examine the potential use of retinoids and vitamin D analogues on pancreatic cancer.