Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. However, therapeutic strategies for the treatment of pancreatic cancer are still limited. Therefore, it is urgent for us to develop novel effective therapies for pancreatic cancer. In this study, we explored the effects of rosmarinic acid on pancreatic progression and explored the underlying molecular mechanisms. Rosmarinic acid significantly suppressed cell viability, cell growth, cell invasion and migration as well as epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) of pancreatic cancer cells, and induced cell apoptosis in pancreatic cells. In addition, rosmarinic acid significantly up-regulated the expression of miR-506 in pancreatic cancer cells, and knockdown of miR-506 attenuated the suppressive effects of rosmarinic acid on cell growth, cell invasion and migration and EMT, and prevented the enhanced effects of rosmarinic acid on cell apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells. Mechanistically, the luciferase reporter assay showed that miR-506 targeted the 3' untranslated region of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2/16, and miR-506 overexpression and rosmarinic acid treatment suppressed the expression of MMP2/16 in pancreatic cancer cells. Overexpression of MMP2/16 attenuated the inhibitory effects of rosmarinic acid on pancreatic cell invasion and migration. In vivo studies showed that rosmarinic acid dose-dependently suppressed tumor growth of pancreatic cancer cells, and increased the expression of miR-506, while suppressed the expression of MMP2/16 and Ki-67 in dissected tumor tissues from xenograft nude mice. Collectively, our results for the first time revealed the anti-tumor effects of rosmarinic acid in pancreatic cancer, and the anti-tumor effects of rosmarinic acid were via regulating the miR-506/MMP2/16 axis in pancreatic cancer.