Pancreatic cancer is a fatal disease. The five-year survival for patients with all stages of this tumor type is less than 10%, with a majority of patients dying from drug resistant, metastatic disease. Gemcitabine has been a standard of care for the treatment of pancreatic cancer for over 20 years, but as a single agent gemcitabine is not curative. Since the only therapeutic option for the over 80 percent of pancreatic cancer patients ineligible for surgical resection is chemotherapy with or without radiation, the last few decades have seen a significant effort to develop effective therapy for this disease. This review addresses preclinical and clinical efforts to identify agents that target molecular characteristics common to pancreatic tumors and to develop mechanism-based combination approaches to therapy. Some of the most promising combinations include agents that inhibit transcription dependent on BET proteins (BET bromodomain inhibitors) or that inhibit DNA repair mediated by PARP (PARP inhibitors).