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Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD

Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD
  • Full Non-Programmatically Aligned Member
    University of Hawai'i Cancer Center
  • Faculty Co-Director
    Genomics and Bioinformatics Shared Resource
    University of Hawai'i Cancer Center
  • Academic Appointments

  • Associate Specialist (Associate Professor)
    University of Hawaii Cancer Center
    University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • 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

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 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.
  • Okimoto G, Zeinalzadeh A, Wenska T, Loomis M, Nation JB, Fabre T, Tiirikainen M, Hernandez B, Chan O, Wong L, Kwee S. (2016) Joint analysis of multiple high-dimensional data types using sparse matrix approximations of rank-1 with applications to ovarian and liver cancer. BioData Mining, Jul 29;9:24.
  • 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

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
  • M. Tiirikainen, Co-Investigator; L. Le Marchand, Principal Investigator
    P01 CA168530
    "Obesity, Body Fat Distribution, and Cancer Risk in the Multiethnic Cohort"
    July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2018
  • 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, 2018
  • M. Tiirikainen, Co-Principal Investigator; S. Kwee, Co-PI
    MD007584-07 Pilot 3
    "Soluble Epigenetic Biomarker for Liver Cancer"
    May 1, 2017 – April 30, 2018