Although the treatment of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) remains a huge challenge, it is entering a new era with the development of new strategies and trial designs. Because there is an increasing number of novel therapeutic agents and potential combinations available to test in patients with PDAC, the identification of robust prognostic and predictive markers and of new targets and relevant pathways is a top priority as well as the design of adequate trials incorporating molecular-driven hypothesis. We presently report a consensus strategy for research in pancreatic cancer that was developed by a multidisciplinary panel of experts from different European institutions and collaborative groups involved in pancreatic cancer. The expert panel embraces the concept of exploratory early proof of concept studies, based on the prediction of response to novel agents and combinations, and randomised phase II studies permitting the selection of the best therapeutic approach to go forward into phase III, where the recommended primary end point remains overall survival. Trials should contain as many translational components as possible, relying on standardised tissue and blood processing and robust biobanking, and including dynamic imaging. Attention should not only be paid to the pancreatic cancer cells but also to microenvironmental factors and stem/stellate cells. © The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society for Medical Oncology. All rights reserved.