Abstract Background It has been reported that the lncRNA SNHG16 has significantly increased expression in pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PC). However, the functions and mechanisms of SNHG16 are not clear. The aim of this study was to explore the effects of SNHG16 on PC. Methods qRT-PCR analysis was applied to detect the expression levels of SNHG16, miR-302b-3p and SLC2A4 in PC tissues and cells. CCK8 and EdU assays were used to evaluate the proliferation of PC cells. Transwell assays were used to assess PC cell migration and invasion. Apoptosis was evaluated by flow cytometry, and the expression of apoptosis-related proteins (including Bax, Bcl-2, cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved caspase-9) was tested by western blotting. The interactions between miR-302b-3p and SNHG16 or miR-302b-3p and the 3’UTR of SLC2A4 mRNA were clarified by a dual luciferase reporter assay and RNA immunoprecipitation. Results SNHG16 expression was significantly elevated in PC tissues and cell lines and was associated with poor prognosis of PC patients. Knockdown of SNHG16 reduced PC cell proliferation, migration and invasion. SNHG16 acted as a sponge to regulate miR-302b-3p expression in PC cells. In addition, miR-302b-3p targeted SLC2A4 directly. Conclusions SNHG16 promoted the progression of PC via the miR-302b-3p/SLC2A4 axis and was expected to be a potential target for the early diagnosis and treatment of PC.