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Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD

Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD

Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD
  • Associate Professor Specialist, University of Hawai'i Cancer Center
  • Director, Genomics Shared Resource, University of Hawai'i Cancer Center;
  • Graduate Faculty: Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering, University of Hawaii at Manoa


  • MS (Biochemistry), University of Helsinki, Finland
  • PhD, (Analytical and Clinical Biochemistry), University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Post-Doctoral Training (Cancer Genomics): UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center

Research Focus

Dr. Tiirikainen's main interest is Genomics. During her 10 years in the Cancer Genomics Program at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center, she gained expertise in many cutting edge molecular profiling techniques. Since her move to Hawai'i in 2005, Dr. Tiirikainen has concentrated on developing methodologies for coding and non-coding gene expression profiling in different sample types; unfixed and fixed tissue, white blood cells, plasma, serum and saliva.

Dr. Tiirikainen collaborates with several funded investigators from different UH Cancer Center programs. Together with investigators from the Epidemiology program, she has been developing research strategies for the replication and functional evaluation of cancer susceptibility variants identified in GWAS (genome-wide association studies). Many of these variants are not located in protein-coding genes but "gene deserts". One possibility is that these regions contain expression regulators, such as microRNAs and Dr. Tiirikainen has been conducting in silico and lab based analyses for possible novel microRNAs in these regions.

Another area of interest is the study of circulating cell-free and cell-bound nucleic acids (DNA, RNA, miRNA) in cancer patients. In collaboration with Drs. Kwee and Wong in the Cancer Biology program, Dr. Tiirikainen has been developing methods for circulating plasma DNA quantification and characterization.

As the Director of the Genomics Shared Resource (GSR), Dr. Tiirikainen provides molecular genetic analyses for research projects conducted by UH Cancer Center members and the larger UH research community. The GSR provides expertise in the fast developing area of genomics. The services currently offered are: (1) DNA/RNA isolation, plating, and quality analysis, (2) Custom genotyping, (3) Real-Time qPCR based gene expression, copy number and methylation assays, (4) Pyrosequencing, (5) Affymetrix and Illumina microarray based assays, and (6) Consultation.

Selected Publications

  • Qi F, Okimoto G, Jube S, Napolitano A, Pass HI, Laczko R, DeMay RM, Khan G, Tiirikainen M, Rinaudo C, Croce A, Yang H, Gaudino G, Carbone M. (2013). Continuous exposure to chrysotile asbestos can cause transformation of human mesothelial cells via HMGB1 and TNF–α signaling. Am J Pathol, Nov;183(5):1654-66.
  • Ling H, Spizzo R, Atlasi Y, Nicoloso M, Shimizu M, Redis RS, Nishida N, GafĂ  R, Song J, Guo Z, Ivan C, Barbarotto E, De Vries I, Zhang X, Ferracin M, Churchman M, van Galen JF, Beverloo BH, Shariati M, Haderk F, Estecio MR, Garcia-Manero G, Patijn GA, Gotley DC, Bhardwaj V, Shureiqi I, Sen S, Multani AS, Welsh J, Yamamoto K, Taniguchi I, Song MA, Gallinger S, Casey G, Thibodeau SN, Le Marchand L, Tiirikainen M, Mani SA, Zhang W, Davuluri RV, Mimori K, Mori M, Sieuwerts AM, Martens JW, Tomlinson I, Negrini M, Berindan-Neagoe I, Foekens JA, Hamilton SR, Lanza G, Kopetz S, Fodde R, Calin GA. (2013). CCAT2, a novel noncoding RNA mapping to 8q24, underlies metastatic progression and chromosomal instability in colon cancer. Genome Res, Sep;23(9):1446-61.
  • Song M, Tiirikainen M, Kwee S, Okimoto G, Yu H, Wong LL. (2013). Elucidating the Landscape of Aberrant DNA Methylation in Hepatocellular Carcinoma. PLOS One, 8(2):e55761.
  • Loo LWM, Tiirikainen M, Cheng I, Lum-Jones A, Seifried A, Church JM, Gryfe R, Weisenberger DJ, Lindor NM, Gallinger S, Haile RW, Duggan DJ, Thibodeau SN, Casey G, Le Marchand L. (2013). Integrated Analysis of Genome-Wide Copy Number Alterations and Gene Expression in Microsatellite Stable, CpG Island Methylator Phenotype-Negative Colon Cancer. Gene Chromosome Canc, May;52(5):450-66.
  • Kwee SA, Song M, Loo L, Cheng I, Tiirikainen M. (2012). Measurement of Circulating Cell-free DNA in Relation to 18F-fluorocholine PET/CT Imaging in Chemotherapy-Treated Advanced Prostate Cancer. Clin Transl Sci, Feb, 5(1), 65-70.

Publication list via PubMed

Selected Grants

  • M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator, (S. Kwee, Principal Investigator)
    Weinman Innovator Award, Weinman Foundation
    "Liver Cancer Detection Using Tumor DNA Isolated from the Blood"
    November 1, 2012 - January 31, 2014
  • M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator (L. Le Marchand, Principal Investigator)
    P01 CA168530, NCI
    "Obesity, Body Fat Distribution, and Cancer Risk in the Multiethnic Cohort"
    September 1, 2012 - August 31, 2017
  • M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator, (S. Kwee & G. Okimoto, Principal Investigators)
    R01 CA161209, NCI
    "Functional Genomics and Molecular Imaging of Liver Disease and Cancer"
    July 1, 2011 - April 30, 2016
  • M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator (L. Le Marchand, Principal Investigator)
    >P01 R01 CA126895, NCI
    "Whole Genome Scan for Modifier Genes in Colorectal Cancer"
    September 1, 2008 - July 31, 2014