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

PhD, Analytical and Clinical Biochemistry, University of Helsinki, Finland
MS, 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

Song MA, Seffernick AE, Archer KJ, Mori KM, Park SY, Chang L, Ernst TM, Tiirikainen M, Peplowska K, Wilkens LR, Le Marchand L, Lim U. (2021). Race-Associated Blood DNA Methylation Differences Between Japanese and European American Women: An Exploratory Study. Clin Epigenetics;Oct 11;13(1):188. PMID: 34635168.

Kwee SA, Tiirikainen M. (2021). Beta-catenin activation and immunotherapy resistance in hepatocellular carcinoma: mechanisms and biomarkers. Hepatoma Res;7:8. PMCID: PMC7861492.

Park SL, Sheng YLX, Hom V, Xia L, Zhao K, Pooler W, Setiawan VW, Lim U, Monroe KR, Wilkens LR, Kristal BS, Lampe JW, Hullar M, Shepherd J, Loo LLM, Ernst T, Franke AA, Tiirikainen M, Haiman CA, Stram DO, Le Marchand L, Cheng I. (2020). Genome-wide association study of liver fat: The Multiethnic Cohort Adiposity Phenotype Study. Hepatol Commun;Jun 25;4(8):1112-112. PMCID: PMC7395069.

Lin M, Caberto C, Wan P, Li Y, Lum-Jones A, Tiirikainen M, Pooler L, Nakamura B, Sheng X, Porcel J, Lim U, Setiawan VW, Le Marchand L, Wilkens LR, Haiman CA, Cheng I, Chiang CWK. (2020). Population-specific reference panels are crucial for genetic analyses: an example of the CREBRF locus in Native Hawaiians. Hum Mol Genet;Aug 3;29(13):2275-2284. PMCID: PMC7399533.

Roy D, Tiirikainen M. (2020). Diagnostic Power of DNA Methylation Classifiers for Early Detection of Cancer. Trends Cancer;Feb;6(2):78-81. PMCID: PMC7188195.

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator; S. Kwee, PI
1R01 CA255087-1A
"Evaluation of Treatment Predictors Reflecting Beta-catenin Activation in Hepatocellular Carcinoma"
09/09/2021 - 08/31/2026

M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator; L. Park, PI
5R01 MD014862-02
"Comprehensive molecular characterization of lung cancers in five racial/ethnic groups with disparate risk"
08/08/2019 - 07/31/2024

M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator; Y. Deng, PI
5R01 CA230514-02
"Circulating Lipid and miRNA Markers for Early Detection of Breast Cancer among Women with Abnormal Mammogram"
08/08/2019 - 07/31/2024

M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator (subcontract); S. Hecht, PI
P01 CA138338-10
"Mechanisms of Ethnic Differences in Lung Cancer Due to Cigarette Smoking"
09/21/2016 - 08/31/2022

M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator (subcontract); C. Amos, PI
"Integrative Analysis of Lung Cancer Etiology and Risk - Project 1"
08/01/2017 - 05/31/2022

M. Tiirikainen, PI
Hawaii Community Foundation
"GENETIC DISPARITIES IN COVID-19: Role of Genetic Differences Explaining Health Disparities in COVID-19"
12/01/2020 - 05/31/2022