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

Boldry EJ, Patel YM, Kotapati S, Esades A, Park SL, Tiirikainen M, Stram DO, LeMarchand L, Tretyakova N. (2017) Genetic Determinants of 1,3-Butadiene Metabolism and Detoxification in Three Populations of Smokers with Different Risks of Lung Cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2017 Mar 14.

Park SL, Tiirikainen M, Patel Y, Wilkens L, Stram DO, Le Marchand L, Murphy SE. (2016). Genetic determinants of CYP2A6 activity across racial/ethnic groups with different risk of lung cancer and effect on their smoking intensity. Carcinogenesis, Mar, 37(3):269-79.

Ching T, Peplowska K, Huang S, Zhu X, Shen Y, Molnar J, Yu H, Tiirikainen M, Fogelgren B, Fan R, Garmire LX. (2016). Pan-Cancer Analyses Reveal Long Intergenic Non-Coding RNAs Relevant to Tumor Diagnosis, Subtyping and Prognosis. EBioMedicine, May:7:62-72.

Song MA, Kwee SA, Tiirikainen M, Hernandez BY, Okimoto G, Tsai NC, Wong LL, Yu H. (2016). Comparison of genome-scale DNA methylation profiles in hepatocellular carcinoma by viral status. Epigenetics, Jun 2;11(6):464-7.

Kwee SA, Okimoto GS, Chan OTM, Tiirikainen M, Wong L. (2016) Metabolic characteristics distinguishing intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma: a negative pilot study of 18F- fluorocholine PET/CT clarified by transcriptomic analysis. Am J Nucl Med Mol Imaging Jan 28;6(1):78-83.

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

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

M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator; L. Garmire, Principal Investigator
R01 HD084633
"An Integrative Omics Approach to Identify Biomarkers Related to Preeclampsia and Breast Cancer Risks in Offspring"
August 19, 2016 - July 31, 2021

M. Tiirikainen, Co- Investigator; S. Park, Principal Investigator
TRDRP 499495 High Impact Research Project Award
"Nicotine Metabolism and Predicting Lung Cancer Risk in African Americans"
July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2019