Abstract Background Nucleotide transporters such as human equilibrative nucleoside transporter-1 (hENT1) play a major role in transporting gemcitabine into cells. CO-1.01 (gemcitabine-5′-elaidate) is a novel cytotoxic agent consisting of a fatty acid derivative of gemcitabine, which is transported intracellularly independent of hENT1. CO-1.01 was postulated to have efficacy as a second-line treatment in gemcitabine-refractory pancreatic adenocarcinoma in patients with negative tumor hENT1 expression. Methods Eligibility criteria included patients with either a newly procured or archival biopsy tumor confirming the absence of hENT1 and either gemcitabine-refractory metastatic pancreas adenocarcinoma or with progression of disease following resection during or within 3 months of adjuvant gemcitabine therapy. Patients were treated with intravenous infusion of CO-1.01 dosed at 1250 mg/m2 on Days 1, 8, and 15 of a 4-week cycle. The primary end point was disease control rate (DCR). Results Nineteen patients were enrolled of which 18 patients were evaluable for efficacy assessment. Thirteen patients (68%) had liver metastases, 6 (32%) had lymph node metastases, and 10 (53%) had lung metastases. Two of 18 patients (11%) achieved disease control. The median survival time was 4.3 (95% CI 2.1–8.1) months. All patients experienced at least one treatment-related adverse event with the majority of events being mild or moderate. Conclusion This study did not meet its primary endpoint and no efficacy signal was identified for CO-1.01 in treating progressive metastatic pancreas adenocarcinoma.