Background: Pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related death. Using DNA gene expression analysis based on a custom made Affymetrix cancer array, we investigated the expression pattern of both primary and established pancreatic carcinoma cell lines. Methods: We analyzed the gene expression of 5 established pancreatic cancer cell lines (AsPC-1, BxPC-3, Capan-1, Capan-2 and HPAF II) and 5 primary isolates, 1 of them derived from benign pancreatic duct cells. Results: Out of 1,540 genes which were expressed in at least 3 experiments, we found 122 genes upregulated and 18 downregulated in tumor cell lines compared to benign cells with a fold change >3. Several of the upregulated genes (like Prefoldin 5, ADAM9 and E-cadherin) have been associated with pancreatic cancer before. The other differentially regulated genes, however, play a so far unknown role in the course of human pancreatic carcinoma. By means of immunohistochemistry we could show that thymosin β-10 (TMSB10), upregulated in tumor cell lines, is expressed in human pancreatic carcinoma, but not in non-neoplastic pancreatic tissue, suggesting a role for TMSB10 in the carcinogenesis of pancreatic carcinoma. Conclusion: Using gene expression profiling of pancreatic cell lines we were able to identify genes differentially expressed in pancreatic adenocarcinoma, which might contribute to pancreatic cancer development.