A new partnership between the Cancer Support Community organization and Airbnb seeks to take some of the financial sting out of treatment for the dreaded disease.

The arrangement, announced March 26, is an expansion of the program Airbnb launched last September, the Open Homes program for medical stays, which gives patients traveling for treatments access to free lodging, according to airbnb.com.

The expansion enables cancer patients and caregivers to receive free stays at Airbnb locations if they meet “geographic and income criteria,” according to the press release from the company, an online hospitality service founded in 2008 to arrange or offer lodging, often in someone’s home.

Airbnb is donating $1.2 million in grants as part of the expansion.

Locally, Cancer Support Community Central Ohio officials said that means patients and caregivers coming to Columbus for treatment might have access to 300-plus places to stay at no charge under the Open Homes program.

“I think it opens up many doors,” said Angie Santangelo, clinical-program director with the local affiliate.

“This alleviates a major concern for patients and caregivers,” said Bev Soult, president and CEO of Cancer Support Community Central Ohio.

The financial burden for patients and caregivers not only to obtain treatment, but also travel where it’s available and pay for lodging can be significant, said Ted Miller, vice president of development and external affairs at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of Cancer Support Community.

“It really becomes an issue of whether people are able to get the care they need,” Miller said.

The nonprofit organization provides $50 million in free support services annually to cancer patients and their loved ones at 175 locations in the United States and abroad.

The “geographic criteria” for participating in the Airbnb Open Homes initiative for medical stays requires that patients and caregivers travel more than 100 miles, according to Cancer Support Community’s website.

The financial requirements deal with gross family income and start off, the website said, with a maximum of $36,240 for an individual, increasing to $77,925 for a family or four or more.

“(Often), the housing is important because the caregivers are traveling with patients who can’t travel alone,” Miller said.

The new program with Airbnb has been conducted on a test basis already, he said.

“We did a little bit of a softened launch,” Miller said. “(Airbnb personnel) have been incredible in terms of working for us to make it as easy as possible for patients and caregivers.”

“We’re excited to move forward and be a partner and provide this opportunity for families, really not just in central Ohio, but across the nation,” Soult said.

For more information about the program, go to tinyurl.com/airbnbcancer.