Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD

Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD

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Full Member, Population Sciences in the Pacific (Cancer Epidemiology), University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center
Faculty Co-Director, Genomics and Bioinformatics Shared Resource

Academic Appointment(s):
Associate Specialist (Associate Professor), University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Graduate Faculty:  Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

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

Research Focus

Cancer is a disease of the Genome. Recent developments in Genomics have provided ground-breaking advances in the characterization of the genomic and epigenomic changes in a wide range of cancers. Dr. Tiirikainen's main interest is in the Cancer Genome and the fast developing area of Genomics, including developing methodologies for nucleic acid profiling in different sample types, such as unfixed and fixed tissues, cells, plasma, serum, and other body fluids. Her special area of interest is the liquid biopsy application of circulating nucleic acids; DNA, RNA and miRNA, for diagnostic and prognostic purposes, and as markers of the tumor response to therapy.

Dr. Tiirikainen collaborates with several investigators from different UH Cancer Center programs. With investigators in the Cancer Epidemiology program, especially for studies utilizing the biospecimen in the Multiethnic Cohort, she has been developing research strategies for characterization of genomic and epigenomic cancer susceptibility variants which may be ethnicity-dependent.

In collaboration with investigators in the Cancer Biology Program and clinician scientists doing translational & clinical research, Dr. Tiirikainen has been developing methods for quantification and characterization of circulating tumor-derived DNA. Dr. Tiirikainen is an active member of the multidisciplinary liver cancer research group, TeamLiver, led by Dr. Linda L. Wong.

As the Co-Director of the Genomics and Bioinformatics Shared Resource (GBSR), Dr. Tiirikainen provides nucleic acid based analyses for research projects conducted by UH Cancer Center members and the UH research community at large. The services 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, (6) Next Generation Sequencing and (7) Consultation.

Selected Publications

Kwee SA, Tiirikainen M, Sato MM, Acoba JD, Wei R, Jia W, Le Marchand L, Wong LL. (2019). Transcriptomics Associates Molecular Features with 18F-Fluorocholine PET/CT Imaging Phenotype and Its Potential Relationship to Survival in Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Cancer Res; Apr 1;79(7):1696-1704. PMCID: PMC6494445.

Song MA, Ernst T, Tiirikainen M, Tost J, Wilkens LR, Chang L, Kolonel LN, Le Marchand L, Lim U. (2018). Methylation of imprinted IGF2 regions is associated with total, visceral, and hepatic adiposity in postmenopausal women. Epigenetics; 13(8):858-865. PMCID: PMC6224210.

Park SL, Patel YM, Loo LWM, Mullen DJ, Offringa IA, Maunakea A, Stram DO, Siegmund K, Murphy SE, Tiirikainen M, Le Marchand L. (2018). Association of internal smoking dose with blood DNA methylation in three racial/ethnic populations. Clin Epigenetics; Aug 23;10(1):110. 53. PMCID: PMC6108111;

Murphy S, Von Weyman L, Parenteau M, Stepanov I, Tiirikainen M, LeMarchand L, Park SS. (2018). Influence of UGT2B10 genotype on urinary excretion of NNAL-N-glucuronide by African American smokers; Mar 19;31(3):168-175. PMCID: PMC6058729.

Nishioka ST, Sato MM, Wong LL, Tiirikainen M, Kwee SA. (2018). Clinical and molecular sub-classification of hepatocellular carcinoma relative to alpha-fetoprotein level in an Asia-Pacific island cohort. Hepatoma; Jan 4. PMCID: PMC5786161.

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator (subcontract); C. Amos, PI
"Integrative Analysis of Lung Cancer Etiology and Risk - Project 1"
August 1, 2017 - May 31, 2022

M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator (subcontract); S. Hecht, PI
P01 CA138338
"Mechanisms of Ethnic Differences in Lung Cancer Due to Cigarette Smoking"
September 21, 2016 - August 31, 2021

M. Tiirikainen, Co- Investigator; S. Park, PI
TRDRP 499495 High Impact Research Project Award
"Nicotine Metabolism and Predicting Lung Cancer Risk in African Americans"
July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2020

M. Tiirikainen, Co-PI; S. Kwee, Co-PI
MD007584-07 Pilot 3
“Soluble Epigenetic Biomarker for Liver Cancer”
May 1, 2017 – April 30, 2020