Our people

Professor Franca Ronchese

PhD(Padua), Dip Microbiology

Immune Cell Biology Programme Leader

Professor Franca Ronchese completed her studies at the University of Padova, Italy and spent four years as a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institutes of Health, USA. She then worked as an independent Scientific Member at the Basel Institute for Immunology, Switzerland, before being awarded a Malaghan Senior Research Fellowship to establish her research programme at the Malaghan Institute in 1994.

Research interests

My primary research interest is dendritic cells - specialised immune cells that can process environmental cues into signals that activate or switch off immune responses.  Dendritic cells are found in most tissues of the body, but differ in specific activation requirements and properties. 

Dendritic cells are ideal targets for the development of immunotherapies for diseases such as cancer, where a more powerful immune activation might result in the control of tumour growth, or allergy and autoimmune disease, where dendritic cells play an important role in local inflammation.

We collaborate with other groups in Wellington and overseas to address the following questions:

  • Can dendritic cells in tumours be manipulated to support an intratumoral environment that favours tumour rejection, and minimises immune suppression?
  • What are the weapons that immune cells require to successfully attack cancer?
  • What signals instruct dendritic cells to initiate allergic immune responses?
  • Can dendritic cells be targeted to specifically reduce allergic inflammation with minimal effects on other immune responses?

Research group

Immune Cell Biology
Immune Cell Biology Programme Leader: Prof Franca Ronchese
Research Fellows: Dr Lisa Connor
Dr Sabine Kuhn
Senior Research Officers: Evelyn Hyde
Dr Jianping Yang
Shiau-Choot Tang



Ataera H, Simkins HM, Hyde E, Yang J, Hermans IF, Petersen TR, Ronchese F (2013) The control of CD8+ T cell responses is preserved in perforin-deficient mice and released by depletion of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells. J Leukoc Biol, 94:825-33

Kuhn S, Hyde EJ, Yang J, Rich FJ, Harper JL, Kirman JR, Ronchese F (2013) Increased numbers of monocyte-derived dendritic cells during successful tumor immunotherapy with immune-activating agents. J Immunol, 191:1984-92

Weinkove R, Brooks CR, Carter JM, Hermans IF, Ronchese F (2013) Functional invariant natural killer T cell and CD1d axis in chronic lymphocytic leukemia: implications for immunotherapy. Haematologica, 98:376-84

Weinkove R, Brooks CR, Carter JM, Hermans IF, Ronchese F (2013) Efficient depletion of chronic lymphocytic leukemia B cells using serial rounds of immunomagnetic depletion. J Immunol Methods, 396:152-6


Enomoto N, Hyde E, Ma JZ, Yang J, Forbes-Blom E, Delahunt B, Le Gros G, Ronchese F (2012) Allergen-specific CTL require perforin expression to suppress allergic airway inflammation. J Immunol, 188:1734-41

Lim SN, Kuhn S, Hyde E, Ronchese F (2012) Combined TLR stimulation with Pam3Cys and Poly I:C enhances Flt3-ligand dendritic cell activation for tumor immunotherapy. J Immunother, 35:670-9

Rich FJ, Kuhn S, Hyde EJ, Harper JL, Ronchese F, Kirman JR Induction of T cell responses and recruitment of an inflammatory dendritic cell subset following tumour immunotherapy with Mycobacterium smegmatis. Cancer Immunol Immunother, 61:2333-42

Zhi-long Ma J, Lim SN, Qin JS, Yang J, Enomoto N, Ruedl C, Ronchese F (2012) Murine CD4+ T cell responses are inhibited by cytotoxic T cell-mediated killing of dendritic cells and are restored by antigen transfer. PLoS One, 7:e37481

Zhi-long Ma J, Yang J, Qin JS, Richter A, Perret R, El-Deiry WS, Finnberg N, Ronchese F (2012) Inefficient boosting of antitumour CD8(+) T cells by dendritic-cell vaccines is rescued by restricting T cell cytotoxic functions. Oncoimmunology, 1:1507-16


Ataera H, Hyde E, Price KM, Stoitzner P, Ronchese F (2011) Murine melanoma-infiltrating dendritic cells are defective in antigen-presenting function regardless of the presence of CD4CD25 regulatory T cells. PLoS One, 6:e17515

Simkins HM, Hyde E, Farrand KJ, Ong ML, Degli-Esposti MA, Hermans IF, Ronchese F (2011) Administration of alpha-galactosylceramide impairs the survival of dendritic cell subpopulations in vivo. J Leukoc Biol, 89:753-62


Petersen TR, Sika-Paotonu D, Knight DA, Dickgreber N, Farrand KJ, Ronchese F, Hermans IF (2010) Potent anti-tumour responses to immunization with dendritic cells loaded with tumor tissue and an NKT cell ligand. Immunol Cell Biol, 88:596-604

Robinson MJ, Ronchese F, Miller JH, La Flamme AC (2010) Paclitaxel inhibits killing by murine cytotoxic T lymphocytes in vivo but not in vitro. Immunol Cell Biol, 88:291-6


Dickgreber N, Stoitzner P, Bai Y, Price KM, Farrand KJ, Manning K, Angel CE, Dunbar PR, Ronchese F, Fraser JD, Bäckström BT, Hermans IF (2009) Targeting antigen to MHC class II molecules promotes efficient cross-presentation and enhances immunotherapy. J Immunol, 182:1260-9

Farrand KJ, Dickgreber N, Stoitzner P, Ronchese F, Petersen TR, Hermans IF (2009) Langerin+CD8alpha+ dendritic cells are critical for cross-priming and IL-12 production in response to systemic antigens. J Immunol, 183:7732-42

Robinson MJ, Ronchese F, Miller JH, La Flamme AC (2009) Paclitaxel inhibits killing by murine cytotoxic T lymphocytes in vivo but not in vitro. Immunol Cell Biol, [Epub ahead of print 8 Dec 2009]

Tripp CH, Sparber F, Hermans IF, Romani N, Stoitzner P (2009) Glycolipids injected into the skin are presented to NKT cells in the draining lymph node independently of migratory skin dendritic cells. J Immunol, 182:7644-54


Andrew KA, Simkins HM, Witzel S, Perret R, Hudson J, Hermans IF, Ritchie DS, Yang J, Ronchese F (2008) Dendritic cells treated with lipopolysaccharide up-regulate serine protease inhibitor 6 and remain sensitive to killing by cytotoxic T lymphocytes in vivo. J Immunol, 181:8356-62

Huck SP, Tang S-C, Andrew KA, Yang J, Harper JL, Ronchese F (2008) Activation and route of administration both determine the ability of bone marrow-derived dendritic cells to accumulate in secondary lymphoid organs and prime CD8+ T cells against tumours. Cancer Immunol Immunother, 57:63-71

Peacey M, Wilson S, Perret R, Ronchese F, Ward VK, Young V, Young SL, Baird MA (2008) Virus-like particles from rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus can induce an anti-tumor response. Vaccine, 26:5334-7

Perret R, Ronchese F (2008) Effector CD8(+) T cells activated in vitro confer immediate and long-term tumor protection in vivo. Eur J Immunol, 38:2886-95

Perret R, Ronchese F (2008) Memory T cells in cancer immunotherapy: which CD8 T-cell population provides the best protection against tumours? Tissue Antigens, 72:187-94

Stoitzner P, Green LK, Jung JY, Price KM, Ataera H, Kivell B, Ronchese F (2008) Inefficient presentation of tumor-derived antigen by tumor-infiltrating dendritic cells. Cancer Immunol Immunother, 57:1665-73

Stoitzner P, Green LK, Jung JY, Price KM, Tripp CH, Malissen B, Kissenpfennig A, Hermans IF, Ronchese F (2008) Tumor immunotherapy by epicutaneous immunization requires Langerhans cells. J Immunol, 180:1991-8


Huck S (2007) Report from the ANZSLAS Conference. NAEAC News, Issue 25: p8

Matthews KE, Karabeg A, Roberts JM, Saeland S, Dekan G, Epstein MM, Ronchese F (2007) Long-term deposition of inhaled antigen in lung resident CD11b-CD11c+ Cells. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol, 36:435-41

Matthews KE, Qin JS, Yang J, Hermans IF, Palmowski MJ, Cerundolo V, Ronchese F (2007) Increasing the survival of dendritic cells in vivo does not replace the requirement for CD4+ T cell help during primary CD8+ T cell responses. J Immunol, 179:5738-47

Pedersen AE, Ronchese F (2007) CTLA-4 blockade during dendritic cell based booster vaccination influences dendritic cell survival and CTL expansion. J Immune Based Ther Vaccines 5:9

Watt V, Ronchese F, Ritchie DS (2007) Resting B lymphocytes suppress tumour immunity via an MHC class-II dependent mechanism. J Immunother, 30:323-32


Matthews KE, Hermans IF, Roberts JM, Ching LM and Ronchese F (2006) DMXAA treatment of a non-immunogenic tumour does not synergise with active or passive CD8+ T cell immunotherapy. Immunol Cell Biol, 84:383-9

Ohta A, Gorelik E, Prasad S, Ronchese F, Lukashev D, Wong M, Huang X, Caldwell S, Liu K, Smith P, Chen JF, Jackson E, Apasov S, Abrams S, Sitkovsky M (2006) A2A adenosine receptor protects tumors from antitumor T cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 103:1132-37

Ritchie D, Hermans I, Yang J, Walton J, Matthews K, Carter J, Findlay M, Dady P, Rawson P, Ronchese F (2006) Autologous dendritic cells pulsed with eluted peptide as immunotherapy for advanced B-cell malignancies. Leuk Lymphoma. 47:675-82

Stoitzner P, Tripp CH, Eberhart A, Price KM, Jung JY, Bursch L, Ronchese F, Romani N (2006) Langerhans cells cross-present antigen derived from skin. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 103:7783-8

Yang J, Huck SP, McHugh RS, Hermans IF and Ronchese F (2006) Perforin-dependent elimination of dendritic cells regulates the expansion of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 103:147-52


Harris NL, Holloway J, Fitzharris P, McDonald M, Camberis M, Fazekas de St Groth B, Ronchese F, Le Gros G (2005) Tissue localization and frequency of antigen-specific effector CD4 T cells determines the development of allergic airway inflammation. Immunol Cell Biol. 83:490-7

Kemp R, Bäckström T, Ronchese F (2005) The phenotype of Type 1 and Type 2 CD8+ T cells activated in vitro is affected by culture conditions and correlates with effector activity. Immunology, 115(3):315-24

Prasad S, Farrand K, Matthews S, Chang J, McHugh R, Ronchese F (2005) Dendritic cells loaded with stressed tumor cells elicit long lasting protective tumor immunity in mice depleted of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells. J Immunol, 174:90-98

van Panhuys N, Perret R, Prout M, Ronchese F, Le Gros G (2005) Effector Lymphoid Tissue and its critical role for protective immunity. Trends in Immunol. 26(5):242-7


Facchinetti A, Gallo P, Perini P, Mezzalira S, Ronchese F, Biasi G (2004) The MBP-reactive repertoire is shaped by recognition of minor histocompatibility antigens. J. Neuroimmunol, 148:154-61

Hermans I, Silk J, Yang J, Gileadi U, Palmowski M, McCarthy C, Ronchese F, Cerundolo V (2004) The VITAL assay: A versatile fluorometric technique for assessing CTL- and NKT-mediated cytotoxicity against multiple targets in vitro and in vivo. J Immunol Methods, 285:25-40

Ritchie DS, Yang J, Hermans IF, Ronchese F (2004) B-Lymphocytes activated by CD40 ligand induce an antigen-specific anti-tumor immune response by direct and indirect activation of CD8+ T-cells. Scand J Immunol, 60:543-51

Roberts JM, Yang J, Ronchese F (2004) IL-4 deficiency does not impair the ability of dendritic cells to initiate CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses in vivo. Int. Immunol. 16:1451-58


Lumsden, JM, Prasad SJ, Peach RJ, Ronchese F (2003) The effects of B7-dependent costimulation on T cell division and survival in vivo and in vitro are dependent on Ag concentration. Eur J Immunol. 33:2074-2082


Harris N, Watt V, Ronchese F, Le Gros G (2002) Differential T cell function and fate in lymph node and non-lymphoid tissues. J Exp Med, 195:317-26

Ronchese F (2002) Interview about killing of dendritic cells. Modern Aspects of Immunobiology, 2:100

Ronchese F, Prasad S, Ritchie D (2002) Tumour antigens on tap. The Lancet, 360:268


Chtanova T, Kemp R, Sutherland A, Ronchese F, Mackay C (2001) Gene microarrays reveal extensive differential gene expression in both CD4+ and CD8+ type 1 and type 2 T cells. J Immunol, 167:3057-63

Kemp RA, Ronchese F (2001) Tumor-specific Tc1 but not Tc2 cells deliver protective anti-tumor immunity. J Immunol, 167:6497-6502

Harris N, Prout M, Peach R, Fazekas de St Groth B, Ronchese F (2001) CD80 costimulation is required for Th2 cell cytokine production but not for antigen-specific accumulation and migration into the lung. J Immunol, 166:4908-14

Ronchese F, Hermans I (2001) Killing of dendritic cells: a life cut short, or a purposeful death? J Exp Med, 194: F23-6


Hermans I, Ritchie D, Roberts J, Yang J, Ronchese F (2000) CD8+ T cell-dependent elimination of dendritic cells in vivo limits the induction of anti-tumor immunity. J Immunol, 164:3095-101

Lumsden J, Roberts J, Harris N, Peach R, Ronchese F (2000) Differential requirement for CD80 and CD80/CD86 dependent costimulation in the lung immune response to an influenza virus infection. J Immunol, 164:79-85

Rawson P, Hermans I, Huck S, Roberts J, Pircher H, Ronchese, F (2000) Immunotherapy with dendritic cells and tumor MHC Class I-derived peptides requires high density of antigen on tumor cells. Cancer Res, 60:4493-98

Ritchie D, Hermans I, Lumsden J, Scanga C, Roberts J, Yang J, Kemp R, Ronchese F, (2000) Dendritic cell elimination as an assay of cytotoxic T lymphocyte activity in vivo. J Immunol Meth, 246:109-17


Harris N, Peach R, Ronchese F (1999) CTLA4-Ig inhibits optimal T helper 2 cell development but not protective immunity or memory response to Nippostrongylus brasiliensis. Eur J Immunol, 29, 311-316

Harris N, Ronchese F (1999) The role of B7 co-stimulation in T cell immunity. Immunol Cell Biol, 77: 304-311

Hermans I, Ritchie D, Daish A, Yang J, Kehry M, Ronchese F (1999) Impaired ability of MHC class II-/- dendritic cells to provide tumor protection is rescued by CD40 ligation. J Immunol, 163:77-81

McCoy K, Hermans I, Fraser H, Le Gros G, Ronchese F (1999) Cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) can regulate dendritic cell-induced activation and cytotoxicity of CD8+ T cells independently of CD4+ T cell help. J Exp Med, 189:1157-62


Hermans I, Daish A, Yang J, Ritchie D, Ronchese F (1998) Antigen expressed on tumor cells fails to elicit an immune response, even in the presence of increased numbers of tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte precursors. Cancer Res, 58:3909-17

Hermans I, Moroni-Rawson P, Ronchese F, Ritchie D (1998) The emerging role of the dendritic cell in novel cancer therapies. New Zeal Med J 111:111-113

Le Gros G, Erb K, Harris N, Holloway J, McCoy K, Ronchese, F (1998) Immunoregulatory networks in asthma. Clinical & Exp Allergy vol 28, suppl 5, 92-96


Harris N, Campbell C, Le Gros G, Ronchese F (1997) Blockade of CD28/B7 co-stimulation by mCTLA4-H1 inhibits antigen-induced lung eosinophilia but not Th2 cell development or recruitment in the lung. Eur J Immunol, 27:155-161

Harris N, Peach R, Naemura J, Linsley P, Le Gros G, Ronchese F (1997) CD80 co-stimulation is essential for the induction of airway eosinophilia. J Exp Med, 185:177-82

Hermans I, Daish A, Moroni-Rawson P, Ronchese F (1997) Tumor-peptide pulsed dendritic cells isolated from spleen or cultured in vitro from bone marrow precursors can provide protection against tumor challenge. Cancer Immunol Immunother, 44:341-47

Ronchese, F (1997) New strategies for tumour immunotherapy. NZ Science Review, 54:53-57


Garrigan K, Moroni-Rawson P, McMurray C, Hermans I, Abernethy N, Watson J, Ronchese F (1996) Functional comparison of spleen dendritic cells and dendritic cells cultured in vitro from bone marrow precursors. Blood, 88:3508-12.

Research stories

Punching holes in dendritic cells - could this be the key to controlling asthma?

Asthma remains one of the most prevalent allergic diseases in the world. It is a chro...

Read more

A 'flu shot' for asthma and allergy?

MEDIA RELEASE Preventing asthma and allergy with a small jab in the arm is not as far...

Read more

Rotary Club of Wellington show their support of young scientist

Up and coming asthma researcher, Naomi Baker, is currently undertaking her PhD at the...

Read more

How a relative of TB could help treat cancer

Being infected with a relative of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of ...

Read more

Is cancer contagious?

No, cancer is not contagious in humans. Yet, the strategies used by our immune system...

Read more

An immune-based approach to treating asthma

Prof Graham Le Gros and Prof Franca Ronchese There is no cure for asthma and the sid...

Read more

Is Franca Ronchese the NEXT Woman of the Year 2012?

*** UPDATE:  We couldn't be prouder of Franca.  Although she didn't win at the 2012 N...

Read more

Boosting immune responses against leukaemia

MEDIA RELEASE In the first of its kind, a translational study undertaken at the Malag...

Read more

News under the microscope

Malaghan Month at Just Paterson October was Malaghan Month at Just Paterson Real Esta...

Read more

'Punching' holes and fruit punch - our next asthma therapies?

As often happens in science, a stumbling block in one area of research can present a ...

Read more

The power to control the growth and spread of cancer lies within your immune system

Therapies that activate the immune system (immunotherapies) have the potential to eli...

Read more

$6.2 million investment to curb New Zealand’s allergy epidemic

MEDIA RELEASE Today the Health Research Council of New Zealand announced their ~$6.2 ...

Read more

Identifying the critical gut immune cells

SCOPE 50 The gut immune system faces unique challenges, not least of which is the she...

Read more