Pancreatic cancer has an extremely poor prognosis, only a small minority of patients undergo a resection with curative intent. Chemotherapy and/or radiochemotherapy may improve this by prolonging survival or disease-free interval and improving resectability and the proportion of microscopically complete (R0) resections. With regard to prolonging survival, both in the postoperative adjuvant setting and in locally advanced disease, chemotherapy has a positive but limited effect on survival and may be considered standard. The role of postoperative adjuvant radiochemotherapy remains debatable. For improving resectability/proportion of R0 resections, many studies suggest that the proportion of patients undergoing a resection during exploration and the proportion of R0 resections increase after neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy. This may improve the prognosis of patients with a resectable or borderline resectable pancreatic carcinoma. The effect of neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy, if any, is modest. The search for better combinations, including targeted therapy, must continue. The interpretation of single-arm studies is hampered by (selection) biases. The reporting of pathology and study endpoints should be internationally standardized. To avoid biases in studies of patients with (borderline) resectable tumours, prospective parallel registration of all patients referred for surgery would help. Ultimately, randomized controlled phase III trials should establish the role of neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy. Thus, neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy has a potential benefit in resectable and borderline resectable pancreatic cancer, but better combinations are warranted. © 2011, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.