Pancreatic cancer is resistant to almost all classes of cytotoxic agents. Gemcitabine seems to be the current drug of choice. We have recently reported that inhibition of the phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase-protein kinase B (PKB/Akt) cell survival pathway by wortmannin enhances gemcitabine-induced apoptosis in cultured human pancreatic cancer cells (1). The present study investigated the effects of wortmannin on orthotopic human pancreatic cancer xenografts implanted in severe combined immunodeficient mice. Animals were given single i.v. bolus injections of 0.175, 0.35, or 0.7 mg/kg of wortmannin and killed at 0.5, 1, 2, or 4 h after treatment. Phosphorylated PKB/Akt levels in tumor tissues were measured by fluorescence image analysis. Wortmannin was found to inhibit PKB/Akt phosphorylation in a time- and dose-dependent manner, reaching a plateau at 4 h and at 0.7 mg/kg. The levels of phosphorylated PKB/Akt were maximally decreased by approximately 50% relative to the vehicle control. Subsequently, the extent of apoptosis in tumors treated with gemcitabine or wortmannin alone or in combination was determined using terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick end labeling assay and computerized image analysis. Orthotopic tumors exposed to 80 mg/kg gemcitabine for 48 h and then 0.7 mg/kg wortmannin for 4 h showed a 5-fold increase (P = 0.002) in apoptosis compared with those treated with each agent alone and with the vehicle control. The combination treatment also significantly (P < 0.001) inhibited tumor growth. Taken together, our findings support the potential of phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase inhibitors as adjuncts to conventional chemotherapy in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.