Growth and differentiation factor 15 (GDF-15) has been studied as an important hallmark of cancer. However, the receptor of GDF-15 in pancreatic cancer cell remains unclear. Here, we investigated its biological effects in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). We found that aberrant GDF-15 expression positively correlated with poor survival of PDAC patients. GDF-15 protein enhanced tumor cell proliferation in two pancreatic cancer lines, AsPC-1 and BxPC-3. Knockdown GDF-15 attenuated its biological function and reduced PDAC cell tumorigenesis upon xenotransplantation into nude mice. Moreover, we identified that glial-derived neurotropic factor family receptor α-like (GFRAL) was upregulated in PDAC tissues and positively correlated with GDF-15 expression. High GFRAL expression was significantly associated with poor survival in PDAC patients. Furthermore, we identified that the biological effects of GDF-15 are mediated by its receptor GFRAL which is present in PDAC cells. After overexpression GFRAL in pancreatic cancer cells, the effect of GDF-15 was significantly enhanced. Overall, our findings demonstrated that the GDF-15 secreted by PDAC cells, binds to GFRAL, itself localized in PDAC cells, to promote cancer cell growth and metastasis through the GDF-15/GFRAL signaling pathway.