Pancreatic cancer is a malignant neoplasm with a high mortality rate. Therapeutic agents that activate TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-induced apoptosis have shown promising efficacy, but many pancreatic cancers are resistant to TRAIL therapy. Epigenetic regulation plays important roles in tumor pathogenesis and resistance, and a recent study indicated that the long non-coding RNA HOX transcript antisense RNA (HOTAIR) is overexpressed in pancreatic cancer. However, the role of HOTAIR in pancreatic cancer resistance to anticancer agents is unknown. The present study determined the role of HOTAIR in pancreatic cancer TRAIL resistance and investigated the underlying molecular mechanisms. We observed that TRAIL-resistant pancreatic cancer cells had higher levels of HOTAIR expression, whereas TRAIL-sensitive pancreatic cancer cells had lower HOTAIR levels. Overexpressing HOTAIR in TRAIL-sensitive cells attenuated TRAIL-induced apoptosis, and shRNA-mediated HOTAIR knockdown in TRAIL-resistant PANC-1 cells sensitized them to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. These results support a causative effect of HOTAIR on TRAIL sensitivity. Mechanistically, we found that increased HOTAIR expression inhibited the expression of the TRAIL receptor death receptor 5 (DR5), whereas HOTAIR knockdown increased DR5 expression. We further demonstrated that HOTAIR regulates DR5 expression via the epigenetic regulator enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) and that EZH2 controls histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation on the DR5 gene. Taken together, these results demonstrate that high HOTAIR levels increase the resistance of pancreatic cancer cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis via epigenetic regulation of DR5 expression. Our study therefore supports the notion that targeting HOTAIR function may represent a strategy to overcome TRAIL resistance in pancreatic cancer.