Pancreatic cancer remains a deadly disease despite advances in surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Treatment failure is likely due to intense chemoresistance and immunosuppression. Therefore, new treatment paradigms are urgently needed. Immunotherapy, particularly adoptive T cell transfer, is a highly-personalized therapy that involves the isolation and ex vivo expansion of tumor-specific T cells before administration to cancer-bearing hosts. Areas covered: This review summarizes different strategies of adoptive T cell therapy and their application in pancreatic cancer treatment. It also highlights recent advances and gives discussion on the future directions in T cell-based immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer. Expert opinion: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is extremely challenging to treat, in part, due to intense desmoplastic reaction and immunosuppression. The recent progress in cancer immunotherapy triggers a hope to use immunotherapeutic modality to treat pancreatic cancer. Immunotherapy is generally well tolerated, and has the potential to function as a monotherapy or in synergistic combination with conventional chemotherapy. We must make efforts to optimize the immunotherapeutic regimen and to select patients to treat based on their biological profile. To accomplish this goal, an intense collaboration is needed to bridge between bench and bedside.