To explore the potential of grating-based x-ray phase-contrast computed tomography (CT) for preclinical research, a genetically engineered mouse model of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) was investigated. One ex-vivo mouse specimen was scanned with different grating-based phase-contrast CT imaging setups covering two different settings: i) high-resolution synchrotron radiation (SR) imaging and ii) dose-reduced imaging using either synchrotron radiation or a conventional x-ray tube source. These experimental settings were chosen to assess the potential of phase-contrast imaging for two different types of application: i) high-performance imaging for virtual microscopy applications and ii) biomedical imaging with increased soft-tissue contrast for in-vivo applications. For validation and as a reference, histological slicing and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were performed on the same mouse specimen. For each x-ray imaging setup, attenuation and phase-contrast images were compared visually with regard to contrast in general, and specifically concerning the recognizability of lesions and cancerous tissue. To quantitatively assess contrast, the contrast-to-noise ratios (CNR) of selected regions of interest (ROI) in the attenuation images and the phase images were analyzed and compared. It was found that both for virtual microscopy and for in-vivo applications, there is great potential for phase-contrast imaging: in the SR-based benchmarking data, fine details about tissue composition are accessible in the phase images and the visibility of solid tumor tissue under dose-reduced conditions is markedly superior in the phase images. The present study hence demonstrates improved diagnostic value with phase-contrast CT in a mouse model of a complex endogenous cancer, promoting the use and further development of grating-based phase-contrast CT for biomedical imaging applications.