Pancreatic cancer has a poor prognosis. New treatment options are urgently required to improve patient outcomes. One promising new class of anticancer drugs are synthetic histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) which modulate chromatin structure and gene expression by blocking histone deacetylation. In this study, we aimed at comparing the in vitro capacities of the HDACi SAHA and CUDC-101 to increase radiosensitivity of human pancreatic tumor cell lines. Therefore, three pancreatic cancer cell lines (Su.86.86, MIA Paca-2, T3M-4) were treated with SAHA (1.5-5 mu M) or CUDC-101 (0.25-3 mu M) and after 24 h irradiated. Cell proliferation, clonogenic survival and apoptosis was determined. Additionally, cell lysates were investigated for the expression of apoptosis-related proteins. CUDC-101 and SAHA increased the radiation sensitivity of pancreatic tumor cell lines in a dose-dependent manner. This was evidenced by cell proliferation and clonogenic survival. Furthermore, enhanced radiation sensitivity after CUDC-101 or SAHA treatment was confirmed for Su.86.86 and T3M-4 cells in a 3-D microtissue approach. Increased amounts of subG1 cells and diminished full length PARP-1 suggest increased radiation-induced apoptosis after SAHA or CUDC-101 treatment. The comparison of both inhibitors in these assays manifested CUDC-101 as more potent radiosensitizer than SAHA. In line, western blot quantification of the apoptosis-inhibitory proteins XIAP and survivin showed a stronger down-regulation in response to CUDC-101 treatment than after SAHA application. These proteins may contribute to the synergy between HDAC inhibition and radiation response. In conclusion, these preclinical results suggest that treatment with the HDAC inhibitors CUDC-101 or SAHA can enhance radiation-induced cytotoxicity in human pancreatic cells. However, comparison of both inhibitors identified the multi target inhibitor CUDC-101 as more potent radiosensitizer than the HDAC inhibitor SAHA.